Thursday, 20 February 2020

Emma's Review: Rules of the Road by Ciara Geraghty

Reviewed by Emma Crowley

The simple fact of the matter is that Iris loves life. Maybe she’s forgotten that. Sometimes that happens, doesn’t it? To the best of us? All I have to do is remind her of that one simple fact.

Tuesday morning starts like any other – until Terry discovers her best friend Iris has gone missing. Finding her takes Terry, Iris and Terry’s confused father Eugene, into an extraordinary journey – one that will change all of their lives. And, along the way, what should be the worst six days of Terry’s life turn into the best.

Because friendship teaches us all to be brave. And, sometimes, the rules are made to be broken.

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Many thanks to Harper Collins via NetGalley for my copy of Rules of the Road to review and to Sharon for having my review on the blog.

It's been a long time since I have read a book by Ciara Geraghty. I loved her earlier books so can't think as to a reason why I haven't read her last two but that has now changed as when presented with the chance to read her latest book, Rules of the Road I grabbed it. I didn't even read the blurb but just took it on face value that I would find it a good read given I knew I had enjoyed her books in the past. So I didn't know what to expect from the book in terms of subject matter or themes and therefore I wasn't expecting the serious, emotional and difficult overall subject raised. I truly wasn't prepared for the depth of feeling I would experience and had I known what Iris's intentions were, which were made very clear from early on, then perhaps I would have shied away from reading given it is such a raw, sensitive and poignant topic.

But saying that, that would have been a cop out and as shown in the book we must confront our fears and worries no matter how much they may affect us in many ways. I am glad I read Rules of the Road as Ciara Geraghty has written a very special book with two main characters, Iris and Terry alongside Eugene, Terry's Dad, who embark on a trip which will radically change them all. What starts out for Terry as a bid to stop the worst from happening becomes something totally different and the opinions she starts out with may very well not be the ones she returns with. This is a very emotional read but balanced with this sense of nervousness and anticipation throughout the groups journey is one of laughter, fun and above all else hope. What could have been the most terrible six days of Terry's life turn into some of the best as she gets a chance to reassess her own family life, the health and well-being of her Dad and of course her friendship that runs very deep with Iris.

Ultimately this book is about friendship although Terry and Iris's is put to the test many times over as they journey to a specific destination and for a clear cut reason. Terry is a worrier and anything that throws her off track only intensifies this. Having to have her Dad, who suffers for dementia, for a week as his care home is dealing with an infestation would not be in her plans. Nor would the disappearance of her best friend Iris be. Apparently Iris was going on a yoga retreat but she never turned up and in turn this sets Terry into a panic and she searches through Iris's house. What she finds there is deeply upsetting and Terry knows she must do anything to stop something occurring which there is certainly no going back from. Iris is the complete opposite to her friend. She has a fabulous personality, is a free spirit and doesn't let anything worry her. She has dealt with having MS well so for Terry to discover what has happened it throws her completely off kilter. She throws caution to the wind and knows she has to find Iris before it is too late and so sets in motion a roller-coaster of a ride that will last a short few days but will take them many miles away from home.

For Terry she is away from her comforts and the worry of her everyday life. But maybe that is a good thing as her marriage to Brendan has become stale and she feels that everything has become so mundane and routine. Her girls Anna and Kate have fled the nest, yet she still worries about Anna's exams and Kate's career with her new play about to be launched. But as it is only herself and Brendan at home, and he is working in a stressful job, has Terry lost her purpose in life? This purpose is reignited when she tracks down Iris and refuses to listen to what she has to say. Terry is determined that she can change things and she will not leave her friends side. Terry leaves the country with Iris and Eugene by her side and what ensues is a road trip that will deeply affect the reader. One minute you are laughing along at their antics as the funny situations they get themselves in are just hilarious but a page or two later there is a tear in your eye as you feel the inevitable may be about to happen. Or will it?

Ciara Geraghty balanced everything perfectly throughout this story. There are innumerable light moments that go hand in hand with more serious conversations and explorations. Yet never at any stage did I feel that this was all doom and gloom given the subject matter. It showed that celebration, enjoyment and cheer can be found in the most difficult of times and along the way both Iris and Terry learn an awful lot about each other but also how they individually feel and what they can actually do to change the problems in their lives. If I were to stand back at look at the two women separately I think I really warmed to Terry more so than Iris and this is perhaps because the story was told from her viewpoint. Yes through Terry we got to know Iris but I would have loved a chapter or two told from Iris' perspective but overall it didn't affect my understanding and appreciation of the book.

Eugene although dealing with dementia offered rays of light and comedic moments and I know I shouldn't have laughed but I think that's why he was there as well as giving us a deeper understanding of his illness. Having her Dad with her allowed Terry to see a bit more of Iris's stance and maybe she become more appreciative and a deeper understanding developed. Although Iris certainly had one goal in mind and wouldn't move from it. Eugene's constant retelling of his Frank Sinatra story was brilliant and I loved where it went. Not to mention his shouting out the rules of the road at times when Terry was griping the wheel driving in a strange country when back in Ireland the same routes were continuously driven. Terry was really taken outside of her comfort zone and perhaps Iris was much wiser than her friend gave her credit for. It was like Terry was receiving a gift that she never knew she needed. The gift of independence and the ability to think outside the box and to venture where she has never before. A transformation slowly starts to occur for everyone but will the end result be the one they all desire?

Rules of the Road takes the reader and the group on an exhilarating journey and one which you won't forget for quite some time. Many issues relevant to us today are explored but in the most effective of ways. It could have become a very heavy read and challenging to get through but thanks to the excellent writing of Ciara Geraghty this story turned into a celebration of life and friendship. It's the perfect read for a book club as there is so much that emerges that needs to be discussed and explored with a clear message to take from it. We must embrace every moment as it comes and to make the most of our lives at every given opportunity. Don't let this very special read pass you by and if you have never tried anything by this author before than I urge to start with this book.

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