Review: The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

Title: The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Length: 400 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publicist


For fans of J. Courtney Sullivan, Meg Wolitzer, Claire Messud, and Emma Straub, a gorgeous and absorbing novel of a trio of confused souls struggling to find themselves and the way forward in their lives, set against the spectacular backdrop of contemporary New York City.

Set in the most magical parts of Manhattan—the Upper West Side, Central Park, Greenwich Village—The Ramblers explores the lives of three lost souls, bound together by friendship and family. During the course of one fateful Thanksgiving week, a time when emotions run high and being with family can be a mixed blessing, Rowley’s sharply defined characters explore the moments when decisions are deliberately made, choices accepted, and pasts reconciled.

Clio Marsh, whose bird-watching walks through Central Park are mentioned in New York Magazine, is taking her first tentative steps towards a relationship while also looking back to the secrets of her broken childhood. Her best friend, Smith Anderson, the seemingly-perfect daughter of one of New York’s wealthiest families, organizes the lives of others as her own has fallen apart. And Tate Pennington has returned to the city, heartbroken but determined to move ahead with his artistic dreams.

Rambling through the emotional chaos of their lives, this trio learns to let go of the past, to make room for the future and the uncertainty and promise that it holds. The Ramblers is a love letter to New York City—an accomplished, sumptuous novel about fate, loss, hope, birds, friendship, love, the wonders of the natural world and the mysteries of the human spirit.


Thanksgiving week proves to be eventful and life altering for the main characters in Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s delightfully engaging novel, The Ramblers.

Clio Marsh is stunned when her boyfriend of six months, hotelier Henry Kildare, surprises her with an invitation to move in with him. Never having been in a serious relationship, her feelings for Henry run deep, but the realization their romance is more than just a fling highlights her inability to tell him about her dysfunctional past. Having let him intentionally misunderstand the cause of her mother’s death, Clio panics at the thought of revealing her family’s history with mental illness to him. She is also trying to navigate her troubled relationship with her father and when she learns he has sold the family home, Clio spends one last Thanksgiving with him and at the same time, makes peace with the ghosts of her past.

Clio’s roommate and long time friend Smith Anderson has also had a difficult year after her fiancé inexplicably ended their engagement the previous Thanksgiving. Without warning or explanation, he broke things off and much to her dismay, married another woman not long after breaking her heart. Her heartache was further exacerbated by her younger sister’s engagement and while Smith is happy for the couple, she cannot help feeling envious as she helps plan for the upcoming wedding. At the same time, she is still trying to prove to her wealthy father that her personal organization business is not a waste of her talents or education and that she is completely happy with her career path.

Smith’s path unexpectedly crosses with one of her and Clio’s former college classmates, Tate Pennington, who has newly returned to New York following the collapse of his marriage. At loose ends as he waits for his divorce to become final, Tate has recently sold his wildly successful PhotoPoet app to Twitter and now wealthy beyond his wildest dreams, he is pursuing his dream of becoming a photographer. Drinking a little too much as he tries to get over his soon to ex-wife and figure out what comes next for him, Tate is surprised by his attraction to Smith but are either of them emotionally ready for a new relationship?

Told through alternating chapters from each of the characters’ perspectives, their individual stories spring vividly to life as they try to find their way through the unexpected changes in their lives. Smith and Clio’s friendship has flourished over the years and they provide one another with unwavering support and offer valuable insight as they work through their individual issues. While Tate has his own group of acquaintances he interacts with socially, his new friendship with Smith helps him begin to truly move forward with the new life he is building in New York.

The Ramblers is an engrossing novel of family, friendship and love. Each of the characters are vibrantly developed with easy to relate to problems to overcome. Aidan Donnelley Rowley does an outstanding job weaving together the various storylines into a breathtaking journey of healing for Clio, Smith and Tate. An outstanding novel that I absolutely loved and highly recommend to readers of literary fiction.

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1 Comment

Filed under Aidan Donnelley Rowley, Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Rated B+, Review, The Ramblers, William Morrow

One Response to Review: The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

  1. Timitra

    Thanks for the review Kathy