A Quirky & Heartwarming Commute

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding the news and political climate these days just a bit disheartening. More and more I’m leaning into feel good reads and gosh is Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley such an excellent escape! With unique British characters facing real challenges, a positive storyline, and some mild twists, it’s no wonder this book was one of our featured reads this summer. 

You’ll meet Iona Iverson (a bold, quirky, opinionated ‘magazine therapist’) as she rides the train to and from work. She travels with her purse-sized dog Lulu and makes herself at home on the crowded commute, even setting herself up with glassware and lemon slices for her prepared gin and tonic after work! I enjoyed the picture that Pooley painted of our lead character on her journey and that’s the kind of intentional commute I could get behind. I only wish trains were as prominent here in North America as they are in the U.K… 

We first get to know the characters through their nicknames for each other: Iona is called Rainbow Lady by one passenger, Crazy Dog Woman by another and Magic Handbag Lady by a third. After one of the passengers (aka Smart-but-Sexist-Man-spreader) chokes on a grape and is saved by another (Gorgeous-Hero-Nurse), the commuters begin to form an interesting community of their own.  

Without giving away too much of the story, here’s what I loved about this book:  

  • The chapters are short and captivating and told from the perspectives of several characters who each have their own unique problems. I do have to warn you though that there are some tough topics in this book, including domestic abuse and suicide. 
  • Iona herself is an aging lesbian with a wild history. Some of her nostalgic stories reminded me of those in the City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert which I also enjoyed. 
  • There are several small twists in the novel (and, okay, some that I saw coming miles away), but my favourite involves Iona’s partner Bea who we don’t actually meet for quite some time.  
  • At the end of the day, this book is a story about unexpected community and the connections you can make if you take the time to know those around you. 

Side note: this was the third book I recently read that featured someone learning how to send text messages and use emojis. I’ll just tell you that it is even funnier to hear about the accidental use of ‘aubergine’ rather than ‘eggplant’. 

Did I mention that I picked this book up as an e-audiobook? We also have e-book and print versions at the library, but I thoroughly enjoyed the narrator, Clare Corbett. She did a bang-up job creating distinct voices for the multiple characters of the novel. One of the things I love about listening on the Libby app is that when you’re looking at “Title Details” you can find the narrator’s name, click on it and see the other titles we have that they’ve narrated. Corbett has also voiced titles like The Paris Apartment, The Girl on the Train, and Shopaholic to the Rescue

And hey, if you enjoy this book, you may also like Pooley’s other book, The Authenticity Project, another story of unlikely connections that centers around a travelling journal of truth. 

Photo credit: Star Tribune