Rules for Visiting

A Novel
Narrated by: Emily Rankin
Length: 6 hrs and 34 mins
Categories: Fiction, Literary
4 out of 5 stars (112 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

National Best Seller

Named One of the Best Books of the Year By: O Magazine * Good Housekeeping * Real Simple * Vulture * Chicago Tribune  

Named One of the Best Books of the Summer By: The Today Show * Good Morning America * Wall Street Journal * San Francisco Chronicle * Southern Living  

An INDIE NEXT LIST Pick  

Long-listed for the 2020 Tournament of Books

"Fun, hilarious, and extremely touching." (NPR)

A beautifully observed and deeply funny novel of May Attaway, a university gardener who sets out on an odyssey to reconnect with four old friends over the course of a year.

At 40, May Attaway is more at home with plants than people. Over the years, she's turned inward, finding pleasure in language, her work as a gardener, and keeping her neighbors at arm's length while keenly observing them. But when she is unexpectedly granted some leave from her job, May is inspired to reconnect with four once close friends. She knows they will never have a proper reunion, so she goes, one-by-one, to each of them. A student of the classics, May considers her journey a female Odyssey. What might the world have had if, instead of waiting, Penelope had set out on an adventure of her own?

Rules for Visiting is a woman's exploration of friendship in the digital age. Deeply alert to the nobility and the ridiculousness of ordinary people, May savors the pleasures along the way - afternoon ice cream with a long-lost friend, surprise postcards from an unexpected crush, and a moving encounter with ancient beauty. Though she gets a taste of viral online fame, May chooses to bypass her friends' perfectly cultivated online lives to instead meet them in their messy analog ones. Ultimately, May learns that a best friend is someone who knows your story - and she inspires us all to master the art of visiting. 

©2019 Jessica Francis Kane (P)2019 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

“In the age of Facebook, the true nature of friendship can seem muddled... [May] voices the doubts and dreams of any woman who has questioned what it means to be a true friend. Rich in subtexts and lush imagery, Kane’s novel is a sure bet for lively book discussions.” (Booklist, starred review)

"Engagingly cleareyed prose about a winningly eccentric heroine in love with trees and literature." (Kirkus Reviews)

“Jessica Francis Kane's precise and moving Rules for Visiting is an altogether new sort of friendship novel, one about friendships stretched to their limits over time and space, the sort of friendships so many of us count as our closest. Kane's gift for describing beauty and loneliness, the real stuff of life, is unparalleled.” (Emma Straub, author of Modern Lovers)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Charming, poignant, and utterly engaging

I rarely write reviews, but Rules for Visiting deserves far more than the two that are here to this point. I suggest reading the Amazon reviews to get a better sense of this lovely book. And I should say up front that this is a book far better read than listened to. I did both -- listened first, and then immediately bought a print edition and savored all the nuance it was easy to miss in the narration.

Emily Rankin, was, sadly, not a good choice to capture May Attaway, a 40-year-old woman whose first-person voice is prickly, determined, methodical, socially awkward, laced with understated humor, and wryly self-deprecating. There's also a puzzled wonderment about May, like someone watching from outside a window a warmly-lit scene of friends and family from which she's excluded.

May is so deeply touched and awed by reading an outpouring of loving tributes from friends of a deceased writer that she sets off on a quest to learn about friendship, why it's difficult for her, and, one by one, to deliberately reclaim a handful of friends from her childhood and years in school. Emily Rankin reads well, but her voice sounds much too young and sprightly for May. The book's poignant charm can't help but shine through, though; if it hadn't, I wouldn't have immediately bought the print edition. But it's so very much better in print that if you can possibly take a day to curl up and read and find May's voice for yourself, I strongly recommend it.

Jessica Francis Kane's writing is richly descriptive, and her character development is excellent. Unlike the other two reviewers here (and, again, see the Amazon reviews for balance), I found this to be a book with a great deal of depth. I loved May and cheered her on, delighting in her moments of growth and deepening self-awareness.

One other note in response to another reviewer: this is not a political book. One of the passages in question is brief and completely apolitical dialogue about evergreens growing to previously unrecorded heights as a result of climate change. May is a botanist who works as a gardener on the grounds of a university, and it's a natural conversation with a coworker, particularly since it includes a yew tree that holds deep meaning for May.

The other passage is a five-sentence paragraph about May's longing for the natural world to, as she puts it, take an interest in our affairs. The paragraph ends with these two sentences: "Sometimes the signs are clear: rain falling on the president at the inauguration. Other times the indifference is haunting: a clear September day filled with death."

If you're someone who is offended by a book in which there's a single use of the phrase "global warming," or someone who finds no resonance in May's brief expression of longing for nature to somehow share in our experience, don't buy this book. It deserves listeners and readers who care about our relationship with the natural world, including the other humans in it. It is, at its heart, a book about connectedness and non-judgmental love, about brokenness and healing.

Rules for Visiting has taken a place in my top twenty or so favorite books of all time.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Simple story, slow to get off the ground; narration seemed sappy

Not a lot of depth but once into it, I still wanted to listen. I would not recommend to a book club

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Encyclopedia of Trees

This book was mediocre. There were some moments of charm but I struggled to stay awake during a lot of it . There were a lot of scientific description of trees which, for a short book, were annoying. The plusses of the book were that I did end up with more appreciation for plants and friends. However I tired of all the political jibes throughout the book, such as Nature communicating her feelings to us on the President's Inaugeration by raining and global warming. if I want politics I'll buy a book about politics.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Too many tree metaphors

I was hoping for a book about rekindling old friendships with laughable moments and an epiphany. I was mostly bored with plant facts and surface friendship visits. It felt like just when she was getting deeper, the visits ended and not much follow up. The reader had a delightful voice and captured the feelings well.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

A story in which the gardener does some needed growing

Hard to Mark the stars as intended. I meant 4 overall and 3 for the performance since the young and girlish voice of the narrator seemed distressingly at odds with the character of the narrating character.
Gradually the reader realizes how stunted the narrator’s emotional life has been and how much she does need the friend visits she gradually makes. Whew! Growth on many fronts gradually.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Just ok

An ok read with some interesting observations on friend relationships; story didn't really pull me in.

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

not the best

There really seemed to be no realpoint of the story or lesson learned.. Did learn some things about trees.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    3 out of 5 stars

Reader wasn’t compelling

I think I would have enjoyed this book more than I did if I read it rather than listened. I didn’t enjoy the reader at all and that really detracted from the story.