Rules for Visiting

By Jessica Francis Kane

As May Attaway nears 40, the age her mother was when she died, she begins to wonder what it has all meant.

“I reached a point where the balance of the past and all it contained seemed to outweigh the future, my mind so full of things said and not said, done and undone, I no longer understood how to move forward.”

She lives in the house where she grew up with her 80-year-old father, who has chosen to live in the basement. She watches her older neighbors die or move into assisted living, replaced by young families who don’t introduce themselves.

She works as a gardener at the university where she earned a master’s degree in landscape architecture.

But an unexpected reward of paid time off from her boss, opens the door to a new perspective. She decides that she will use her time to go visiting. She selects four women whom she has known the longest or whom she feels know her best and sets off.

She takes a suitcase that she has named Grendel, after the monster in the Old English epic poem, BEOWULF. (“Beowulf is a violent epic about the dangers of being friendless,” she tells readers. “There’s a party, the misfit is not invited, he sulks outside, then comes in, wreaks havoc, and is killed.”)

Her visits reveal that her friends are not living the perfect lives of their holiday letters. (One is in the throes of a divorce and a challenging custody situation. Another is a social media influencer tiring of trying to be perfect.) But they have opened their homes to her, and their gentle chidings about her failure to help maintain their friendships are heard.

These visits open May’s eyes and heart to the people in her every day life. She starts looking at those who “collect friends easily,” and thinking about the Dunbar number, “the maximum number of people with whom any individual can maintain stable relationships.”

This is a gentle book. Nothing explodes. Planets don’t collide. Doom and catastrophe don’t overtake a community.

Over the course of this lovely novel, May changes course. She turns away from letting life carry her toward becoming an alienated recluse, a modern day, albeit gentle, Grendel. She chooses to be someone who reaches out and shares herself and her life.

If you enjoy this book, you might also check out LESS, THE CANDID LIFE OF MEENA DAVE or LESSONS IN CHEMISTRY.

About the Author: Jessica Francis Kane

Jessica Francis Kane’s 2019 novel, RULES FOR VISITING, was picked for the Indie Next List of the American Booksellers Association and was named a best book of the summer or year by Oprah Magazine, Good Housekeeping, The Wall Street Journal, The San Francisco Chronicle, Vulture and The Chicago Tribune.
It was shortlisted for the 2020 Bolinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize.
Her first novel, THE REPORT, was a finalist for three prizes: the Center for Fiction’s First Novel Prize, the Indie Booksellers’ Choice Award and the Grub Street Book Prize for Fiction.
A play by Martin Casella based on the novel premiered at the 2016 New York International Fringe Festival.
She had previous published a short story collection, BENDING HEAVEN, in 2002. Her second story collection, THIS CLOSE, was published in 2013. It was long-listed for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and The Story Prize. NPR named it a best book of the year.
Born in Ann Arbor, MI, and educated at Yale University, Kane lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

#jessicafranceskane. #rulesforvisiting. #jeannettehartman


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