By Clare Pooley
Published June 2022
One of the principal rules of commuting into London is that you never speak to the other travelers, no matter how often or for how many years you’ve ridden the train with them. Unless a man’s life is at stake. Iona breaks her rule to call out for a doctor, interacting for the first time with people she only knew as nicknames.
Over the course of several weeks, Iona deftly solves a variety of problems for her commuter-mates as handily as she solves her readers’ problems. Brought together through the force of Iona’s personality, her small band of hanger-ons eventually become friends, involved in each other’s lives in ways they never would have imagined. When Iona’s own crisis hits, the ragtag group of former strangers rally round her and prove that we can find friendship and family just about anywhere, even when we’re not looking for them.
Olive Kitteridge has long been my favorite heroine-of-a-certain-age. Until now. She’s been dethroned by Iona, who is classy, smart, slightly outlandish and always speaks her mind. As one character put it, “I want to be Iona when I grow up.” Heck, I’d love to be like Iona, except she had a much more colorful life than I ever did. She is one character that I really, really, want to see in another novel.
It was difficult to summarize this book because there are so many equally compelling subplots going on. Sanjay with his unrequited love for Claire while dealing with anxiety attacks on the oncology ward,Claire beginning to question her too perfect fiance and Piers attempting to hide his shame over his floundering career are just some of the secondary stories woven through this novel. I’m not sure if I could pick a second-favorite character or subplot. I couldn’t imagine the novel would feel complete without any of them.
I don’t think there’s anything I’d change about this novel. It’s one I’ll recommend to anyone who loves a feel-good book.
I rated this novel 4.5 stars. ⭐⭐⭐⭐+
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