Lately I have been drawn to a new genre of literature: coming of age books for those of us who find ourselves in the second half of life. One of my favourite reads this past summer is a book by British author Clare Pooley, Iona Iverson’s Rule for Commuting. A Novel.
Iona Iverson is a fashionable, highly opinionated but loveable advice columnist who takes the train every day from her home in Hampton Court to her workplace in the heart of London. She is an astute observer of the people who also ride the train to work each day, but she does not actually get to know anyone personally. Why? Because one never talks to strangers! Then one of the passengers, a pompous git called Piers, chokes on a grape and suddenly everyone around him, including Iona, flies into emergency response mode to help him. Through this freak encounter, during which Piers nearly dies, an eclectic group of strangers is suddenly brought together in a most delightful way. Witty, fun, charming, uplifting, this feel-good novel shows what can happen when we take down our guard and open ourselves up to the possibility of caring for others quite different from ourselves. Pooley invites us into the lives of unforgettable characters who are complicated, quirky, and funny.
While Iona wrestles with the issues and prejudices that face many older adults in the workforce, she soon makes friends with people all across the generations. In the process she discovers that strangers can teach you a lot — not only about who they are but also about yourself. You learn, moreover, that you are never too old to start again, especially if you are surrounded by supportive and caring companions.