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Rules for Visiting

3.76  ·  Rating details ·  4,989 ratings  ·  896 reviews
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 forty, 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 whi
Hardcover, 290 pages
Published May 14th 2019 by Penguin Press
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Average rating 3.76  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,989 ratings  ·  896 reviews

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Jessica Kane
Jan 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
What are the Rules for rating your own book???
Emer (A Little Haze)
I adore quiet, intimate books. Books that are not perhaps laden with action and mad-cap adventures but are brimming with vitality all the same. Because they breathe life. Books like these get to the core of what it means to be human. They have a beating heart and connect with the reader on a soulful level.
'Rules for Visiting' is one such book.
It is majestic in its simplicity and honesty. It is a book that made me laugh, made me cry, it made me pause for thought to reflect on my own life and th
May 20, 2019 rated it liked it
Thank you to the publisher Penguin Press for providing an advance reader copy via Edelweiss.

May Attaway is forty, single, childless, and still living at home with her widowed father. She's a graduate of the Landscape Architecture program at her local university. Landscape architects design harmonious natural plantings to augment a campus, parking lot, playground,or other public terrain. Once she graduated from the program she took a job at the university with the grounds crew.

If you are a garde
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it

I love books that I connect with emotionally. This charming and poignant book did just that. May is a botanist who works at the local university, when she is awarded a month long sabbatical. She has lived a rather solitary existence with her elderly father and decides to use this unexpected gift of time to go on a personal odyssey to visit 4 old friends she hasn’t kept up with. As May muses,
“It seems to me that your oldest friends can offer a glimpse of who you were from a time before you h
Mar 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
“It seems to me that your oldest friends can offer a glimpse of who you were from a time before you had a sense of yourself.”

“Rules for Visiting” is a lovely meditation on friendship, the importance of a community (in whatever form that takes) and on being open to life. The text moves along smoothly. It is an observational novel, with a tinge of melancholy hanging about it. And really isn’t that a bit like everyday life? Taking in the things around us, and living in that area between joy and sor
Sep 24, 2019 rated it really liked it
May Attaway isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. She’s sad and a little grumpy, but funnier and kinder than she appears on the outside. One character describes her as ‘prickly, but in a soft, long-needled way.’ She’s a gardener at a university, lives with her father in the home she grew up in and lives a rather bland and ordinary existence, yet I enjoyed spending time with her and her journey into rediscovering the life she buried in grief.

Midway through my fortieth year, I reached a point where the bal
Oct 16, 2019 rated it really liked it
4.5 wonderful stars

It's never too late to learn about yourself. It's never to late to reconnect to the people, the things, and the family that you love. It's just never too late to live life joyfully yet quietly, finding its fulfillment in the grace of friends and the power of nature.

The power of friendship is a strong one. There are friends who are like the trunks of trees ever steadfast and ready to be your strength. There are friends who are like flowers bringing their bits of sunshine into a
Betsy Robinson
Oct 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
Reading this book is like sitting in a quiet room, observing and contemplating a one-of-a-kind exotically elegant plant as it slowly buds and flowers. I loved every minute of it.
Kelly (and the Book Boar)
Find all of my reviews:

Find all of my reviews:

Per usual, I didn’t know much about this one before beginning other than it was about a woman who decides to visit four of her long-time friends individually over the course of the book and that my own real life friend Regina recommended it to me. I assumed the main character was most likely dying of some terminal disease since I’m nothing if not consistently bleak in my outlook on
Tyler Goodson
Dec 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs
Isn't every reading experience a visit to a character and the world they live in? I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with May Attaway as she visits four of her friends. Part of her journey is a scholarly and earnest pursuit to discover what it means to have and be a friend. As May finds her answers, we are treated to a character and a story that are beautiful and quietly profound. Consider this my thank-you note.
Oct 25, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those looking for stories about friendship
Recommended to Hilary by: Linden
Read as a buddy read with Lisa Vegan. We read sections at the the same time each day in our different time zones and discussed each part afterwards.

3.5 stars. I debated between 3 and 4 stars. I really enjoyed this character, her thoughts, her philosophical observations, her love of trees and the way that although she was naturally reserved and didn't find reaching out to friends easy she made a huge effort to do things out of her comfort zone to make the change she felt she needed to get her lif
Jan 03, 2020 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Anne by: JanB
Shelves: audio, 2020
Jessica Kane shows an amazing range of writing ability between the two of her books which I have read, The Report and Rules for Visiing. Both so well-written but on vastly different subjects. The Report is about a catastrophe that took place during WW11 in a London subway station. Rules for Visiting is a story about a horticulturist with concerns about her lack of friendships and why she seemingly cares so little about that lack.

May, the protagonist of Rules for Visiting, is an extremely honest
Gretchen Rubin
Someone recommended this novel to me, so I picked it up and am glad I did—all about a woman who realizes she's lonely and decides to reconnect with old friends. Plus trees. (Trees really seem to be having a moment, don't they?)
Apr 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I've been thinking a lot about the role of friendship in my life lately in large part thanks to this book. Jessica Francis Kane has crafted a beautifully subtle and surprisingly funny exploration of how we cope with grief over the long haul. Friendship, it turns out, is the key, but so too is a powerful connection to the natural world.

The premise here is pretty clever. May Attaway is a gardener at a local university. A yew tree she planted years back has inspired an award-winning poem by one of
Judith E
Dec 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
May is a botanist - a true lover of trees and plants. After reading an obituary of a stranger, she is inspired to go visit 4 old friends for a fortnight, thereby avoiding cultivating “friendships” via social media.

The book follows May’s trips with her suitcase, Grendl, it compares her visits with Penelope and Ulysses from the Odyssey and the story is sprinkled with flower and tree facts that reflect May’s friendships and her love of family. It is a quiet and thoughtful book, a bit like Olive Ki
Lisa Vegan
I read this book as a buddy read with Goodreads friend Hilary. We were able to do each of our reading sessions at the same time and stayed in sync, and then we discussed each section right after we read it, despite our 8 hour time difference. I really enjoy doing that. Hilary and I have also done this with previous books.

I really liked this book but it was different from what I’d expected. It surprised me all the way through. The friend visits weren’t what I expected, the reveal wasn’t what I’d
Jul 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A sweet book with gentle wisdom about friendships and solitude. The protagonist is a shy, introverted botanist, so this will be especially enjoyable if you’re attuned to plants and gardens. I’m not, but I still was happy to spend time with this character and follow her trajectory.
Vivek Tejuja
Jun 04, 2019 rated it really liked it
Jessica Francis Kane's book, Rules for Visiting grows on you. Much like the trees and grass spoken about in the book. Much like how they are an intrinsic part of the book, as the protagonist is a gardener. May Attaway, is a 40-year-old gardener who lives in her parents' home with her father, an 80-year-old man inhabiting the basement (his own accord). May's mother died when she was 40 and this kicks off May's choice to change some things about her life. The primary one being to go and visit four ...more
a contemplative, internal story about a woman who is most at home in her work, as a gardener on a university campus. her world is small, and revolves around regularly scheduled activities: work, home, a local restaurant. may lives in her childhood home with her widowed father - a professor at the same university where may works. theirs is a quiet existence, yet there is the hint of tension just below the surface. realizing how small she's been living, may reconnects with four friends she has not ...more
Oct 03, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: contemporary, 2019
this book started slow and continued having a meditative tone. as i grew used to it, i started to enjoy and appreciate this story of trees and friendship. a lonely single botanist/landscape architect gets time off as a reward and decides to use it to visit four old friends. interesting thoughts on what friendship still is in the age of text messages and facebook, on the healing power of trees and human relationships, in all their imperfection.
Marcy Dermansky
May 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a beautiful book. I did not know how Jessica Francis Kane could write a whole novel about visiting friends and trees but she did and I loved it. I felt understood.
chels marieantoinette
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: giveaways
Part one of this book was hard for me. It felt jumpy, yet slow and discombobulated. But the honor of reading an advance copy forced me onward - I wanted to give this book my undivided attention and a thorough review. Boy am I glad that I did!
I truly love May Attaway. At first I equated her to “the next Eleanor Oliphant,” but she is so much more.
No, I am not obsessed with plants. Nor am I a 40-year-old, single woman living with my father and my cat... I am a 30-year-old engaged woman living with
Jun 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
Botany + classic literature + a relatably awkward main character = magic (for me at least)
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jun 15, 2020 rated it really liked it
Mae is a gardener. She's forty and lives with her elderly father. In her life, she has had four strong friendships. She's come to the realization that she has neglected friendships in her life. An opportunity appears for Mae to take an extended time off work, and she decides to use that time to visit her four old friends.

This book is an extended reflection on things that are important to us in life, and each page is sprinkled with wise thoughts and curated facts that contribute to a life well-li
Jun 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, 2019
I loved this book, although I do confess that it's probably not for everyone. If you're looking for a fast-moving plot, look elsewhere. This is one of those stories about ordinary life, one that provides some profound insights into human nature, specifically friendship. May is 40 years old, single, working as a gardener at the local university and living in her childhood home while her father lives in the basement apartment. She receives some extra time off work and decides to use it to visit va ...more
Mar 10, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: won-in-giveaways
I received a copy of this book in a Goodreads giveaway.

Although I really liked the main character, I struggled to figure out what the point was. I'm not sure I ever did. To me, it just felt like a string of one event leading to another without any real purpose or meaning. By about halfway through, I was struggling to continue. I forced myself to finish, but I don't see myself ever being in a rush to pick it up again.
Jaclyn Crupi
Oct 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 A lovely read about loneliness and friendship. I’ve read so many 20-something female friendship novels in the past few years that it’s very refreshing to get one about 40-somethings. And it’s female friendships and the difficulty of maintaining them over time rather than the toxic potentials of such friendships. There is something special about this book and the way it makes you feel.
Melanie Dugan
Aug 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I am a writer; I enjoyed this book for the skillful writing, the dry wit, the author's close observation of character, and the understated story that gradually engages the reader. I am a gardener; I loved main character's close attention to the world around herself, and her relationship with trees; at times she feels closer to them than she does to the people around her - a feeling I sometimes share.

May is a quiet person. She may even be on the Asperger's spectrum. Flexibility is a recessive ge
Kerry (lines i underline)
“We document our lives for people near and far with status updates and photographs, but we rarely just show up.”

At nearly forty years old, May Attaway is very much settled into the gentle routines of her life. She lives with her father in her childhood home and works as a university gardener, a job that she finds truly fulfilling. May is an observer, and solitude, contemplation, and reading classic literature are her most satisfying pursuits. However, when she is given some unexpected leave from
Aug 15, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: netgalley
At first glance this seems like an uplifting, feel-good story in the vein of other books published recently - a lonely, socially awkward, middle-aged woman seeking resolution to her issues with family and her life to date. It is indeed this kind of story, but to my mind written with a little more subtlety and with a wider focus on the nature of friendship in the modern technological age. Are emojis and likes, no matter how frequent, enough to keep a friendship alive and meaningful? Are visits lo ...more
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Putnam County Pub...: December Book Club Discussion 1 11 Dec 10, 2019 07:41AM  

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JESSICA FRANCIS KANE is the author of The Report (Graywolf, 2010), a finalist for the 2010 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize from the Center for Fiction and a Barnes & Noble "Discover" pick. She is also the author of the story collections Bending Heaven (Counterpoint, 2002) and This Close (Graywolf, 2013), which was an NPR best book of the year and a finalist for The Story Prize. Her stories have ...more

Articles featuring this book

Aminatou Sow and Ann Friedman know the radical life-changing power of a good friendship. The two launched their hit podcast Call Your Girlfriend ...
70 likes · 10 comments
“Perhaps a best friend is someone who... holds the story of your life in mind. Sometimes in music a melodic line is so beautiful the notes feel inevitable; you can anticipate the next note through the long rest. Maybe that is friendship. A best friend holds your story in mind so notes don't have to be repeated.” 6 likes
“I'm aware not everyone feels the way I do about trees, but I have no idea why not.” 4 likes
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