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The Ramblers

The Ramblers

4.2 6
by Aidan Donnelley Rowley

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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,


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. 

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A trio of New Yorkers leading charmed lives must overcome everyday complications in order to move forward in Rowley’s sophomore outing (after Life After Yes). Ornithologist Clio Marsh has her dream job at the Museum of Natural History and the love of the winning, much-older hotel magnate Henry Kildare, who’s ready to commit. But Clio’s having reservations about the relationship: she’s never been up front with Henry about her mother’s bipolar disorder and suicide, and she’s constantly worried that her mother’s demons may eventually catch her as well. Meanwhile, Clio’s best friend and longtime roommate Smith Anderson is trying to keep it together while Smith’s younger sister’s impending marriage provides constant reminders of Smith’s own broken engagement. A chance reconnection with an old college acquaintance of Smith, Tate Pennington, is a temporary respite from Smith’s heartbreak, but Tate, a newly single Internet mogul who’s just sold his company to Twitter, feels unmoored with no job, too much money, and the sudden dissolution of his marriage. Propelled by the kinds of rote sitcom-style misunderstandings that seem like they could be more easily resolved, this tale is light on plot, but Rowley’s Manhattan provides a vivid and charming setting for her nuanced (if not always sympathetic) characters to evolve. (Feb.)
Will Schwalbe
“THE RAMBLERS is an engrossing, meticulously observed novel of New York. Aidan Donnelley Rowley explores the lives of characters navigating the challenges of friendship, jealousy, love and the need to confront their past before they can create a future.”
Dani Shapiro
“In this spirited, compulsively-readable, sophisticated tale of entangled urban lives, Aidan Donnelley Rowley has written a love letter to New York, full of sparkling innocence and its ensuing heartache. THE RAMBLERS is a pure delight.”
Allison Pataki
“Chock full of the crackling wit, irreverent humor and raw honesty [...] A whirlwind foray into the New York City that Aidan Donnelley Rowley knows and loves — and writes— so well.”
Mira Jacob
Witty and engaging, The Ramblers takes us deep into the cloistered world of three New Yorkers, where privilege does not necessarily lead to happiness. Aidan Donnelley Rowley is an expert at revealing her characters with depth and care.”
Lee Woodruff
“Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s finely honed prose creates a New York story that had me enchanted from the first flirtation. It’s not often that a book embeds you so deeply with the characters that you feel as if you are in the story.”
Sophie McManus
“The Ramblers weaves a bewitching, wise tale of how love’s path may take unexpected twists and turns. [...] a deeply moving and elegant book about how we find ourselves and each other. It pulled me in with its first pages, and wouldn’t let go until the last.”
“Sharing that stage, though, is the natural world of Central Park, and the juxtaposition of the human noise against the quiet of the park gives the author’s view of New York an appealing depth.”
Hello Real Life
“…We’re calling it now, this one is going to be a best-seller and is a must-have for novel-lovers.”
“This gorgeous second novel by Aidan Donnelley Rowley centers on three different people in Manhattan in the week leading up to Thanksgiving weekend. [...] Sprinkled with beautiful literary references throughout, The Ramblers is a must read for bibliophiles.”
“Over a week in New York City, a trio of friends-an heiress, a photographer, and an ornithologist (fun, right?)-support one another like family through hard times. Discuss with your gang over brunch.”
The Skimm
“Think Friends with a little more drama and no laugh track. About three twenty-somethings (a socialite, a newly rick techie...and a birdwatcher!) in NYC. Perfect for the long weekend.”
Us Weekly
“It’s elegantly written and sharply funny.”
“Three New Yorkers-a bird watcher, a type-A fixer, and an artist-try to navigate the zigzags of living and loving in the city during one crucial week.”
Woman's World
“Clio, Smith and Tate would feel completely lost in the world, if not for their enduring friendship. Rambling through New York City one fateful week, the trip learns from each other how to let go of past heartaches and open themselves to the uncertainty and promise that the future holds.”
“Although it’s early, we’ve already committed to Aidan Donnelley Rowley’s The Ramblers as one of our favorite books of the year…You’ll at once fall in love with both the characters and with New York City itself…”
“You’re sure to be drawn into these characters and the lessons they learn throughout the emotional chaos of their lives.”
Library Journal
★ 01/01/2016
Clio Marsh is a beautiful, brilliant bird professor, curator, and guide to all things avian on tours of the Ramble, a natural sanctuary in Manhattan's Central Park. She's in love with the much older Henry Kildare, a successful Irishman who reveals a big surprise hard on the heels of Clio's return from overseas, throwing her for an emotional loop. Smith Anderson, Clio's best friend since their Yale days and a professional organizer from a one-percent family, is suffering her own inner freefall, having been dumped by the love of her life while now preparing for the opulent wedding of her younger sister. Tate, another Yale friend, newly filthy rich from the sale of his high-tech company, is in the middle of a divorce that threatens half his assets when he bumps into Smith, and sparks flash, flicker, and flash again. VERDICT Rowley (Life After Yes) once again captures the bright dialog, urban and romantic insecurities, and stylish lifestyle of a group of appealing upper-echelon mid-30s Manhattanites who defy the jaded stereotypes and will have readers rooting for them as they stumble their way to happiness. Irresistible.—Beth Andersen, formerly with Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI
Kirkus Reviews
A week of soul-searching and lovemaking among Yale alumni in New York. "Tate, meet my mother and father, Bitsy and Thatcher. Mom and Dad, this is Tate Pennington." Still recovering from a recently broken engagement, Smith Anderson has brought her new boyfriend home for Thanksgiving at her parents' estate in the Hamptons, a spread that includes a helipad, twin tennis courts, and a bakery. With characters whose names are straight out of The Official Preppy Handbook; a cast that includes a life coach, a personal organizer, a bird-watching guide, and a guy who made millions on an app called PhotoPoet; two couples in the precarious process of finding love; and a big family wedding involving all of them on deck, Rowley's debut novel seems set to be a comedy of manners among the fancier young New Yorkers. But it's quite serious, actually. The narrative is loaded with literary and ornithological information, includes epigraphs from folks like Darwin, Kierkegaard, and Robert Lowell, and features characters who worship E.B. White and Henri Cartier-Bresson. Clio Marsh's mother committed suicide less than a year earlier after a long struggle with bipolar disease, a truth she's having trouble confronting and sharing with her boyfriend. Clearly, the novel wants to be a lot more than a lighthearted love story. Yet it's most successful in its less serious or pedantic moments. Particularly clever are the artifacts from the characters' lives: a New York magazine review of Clio's bird-watching walks in Central Park, a list of Smith's life-coaching goals, an interview with Tate about his app from the Yale Alumni Review, a few college application essays, and a letter found at the bottom of a box of keepsakes. Enjoyable if at times overly earnest.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.50(d)

Meet the Author

Born and raised in New York City, Aidan Donnelley Rowley graduated from Yale University and received her law degree from Columbia University. She is the author of a previous novel, Life After Yes, and the creator of the Happier Hours Literary Salons. She lives in Manhattan with her husband and three daughters.

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The Ramblers 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wish we could give half stars in reviews, as I feel this one is more than a 4 but not quite at 5. Its a beautiful story, wonderful in its simplicity, about relationships and emotions and just being human. You can relate to all the characters, their fears and struggles and joys and challenges in figuring out who they are and their place in the world and just life in general. It was also a trove of information about birds and NYC that were interesting and helped the story instead of weighing it down. I expected it to be more along the lines of chick lit type fluff and was pleasantly surprised to find that it went much deeper. All in all it was a very satisfying read.
SheTreadsSoftly 12 months ago
The Ramblers by Aidan Donnelley Rowley is a recommended novel about three successful Yale alumni in their 30's experiencing angst in NYC. All the action takes place during one Thanksgiving week. Clio Marsh is an ornithologist who works at the Museum of Natural History. A story about her weekly bird-watching walks through the Central Park Ramble is featured in New York Magazine opens up the novel. She is torn about having a committed relationship with 50 year-old hotel magnate Henry Kildare, a man who adores her. Clio feels unable to share information about her back ground and her mother with Henry. Clio's best friend, Smith Anderson, comes from a wealthy, privileged background. Her parents, Bitsy and Thatcher not only have provided her with a million dollar apartment (that Clio stays in too), they have financed Smith's venture into her own business. She is recovering from her recently broken engagement to a doctor and is trying to pull herself together, with the help of a phone-in life coach, in time for her younger sister's impending wedding. Tate Pennington has just sold his app PhotoPoet for millions of dollars to Twitter and is right in the middle of a divorce. He has returned to NYC from the west coast and just happens to run into Smith. Tate is at loose ends with no job, but more than enough money. He and Smith are attracted to each other immediately. Rowley's novel is well written and includes bits of extra information about the characters (articles, papers, etc.) or epigraphs of people the characters revere, that add some interest. The setting is all Manhattan, from the Upper West Side, to Central Park, to Greenwich Village, and drops plenty of names of landmarks along the way for those familiar with NYC. The issues these characters are dealing with are nothing rare or earth shattering, but Rowley explores how these individuals are coping with their particular problems during this one week. First, I will have to admit that I was expecting a totally different kind of book than the one I read, which puts me in a bit of a quandary. Rowley is an excellent writer and she did explore these characters and capture their feelings. However, I didn't enjoy this book and experienced more than my fair share of eye rolling at these angsty overly privileged characters and their whining. There, I've said it. Clio is all nervous because she's afraid to tell her billionaire boyfriend who just created a penthouse apartment for them in his brand new hotel that her mother was bi-polar. What is this - the 1950's? No? Then if you love him tell him. There is medication should you have the same problem in the future. Smith broke up with her fiancée and now her little sister, the doctor, is getting married. Goodness, no wonder you can't recover from that blow without the help of your call-in life coach. And poor Tate (figuratively speaking, literally he's loaded) is just looking for meaning and love in his life. Concerning my rating, The Ramblers is recommended based on the writing and Rowley's ability to tell a story. Personally, it may not be a novel I would chose, but it is a very well written novel and very likely geared toward a (much) younger demographic than the one I represent. I guess I'm just too old to work up a lot of empathy for the problems these young adults are experiencing without wanting to tell them to just snap out of it. And don't get me started on their names. Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher
KrittersRamblings More than 1 year ago
Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings Three friends are reunited in New York and each has a personal secret that they have kept from people and through the book each of their secrets are revealed in various ways and they have to live with the repercussions of those secrets and how they affect others. Two girls and a boy are the main characters in this book and each have chapters in the book to tell their own stories. I loved that this was different, the addition of a male main character was nice. I read a lot of books with women as main characters, so I enjoy that a man was thrown into this mix and it just gave a little more to this one.
Laura_at_125Pages More than 1 year ago
3.5 Stars - Original review @ 125Pages.com The Ramblers is one of those books that I didn’t love but I didn’t dislike. Clio is a noted ornithologist who runs birding trips in Central Park. On one of these outings she meets an older man who promptly sweeps her off her feet. Then after a grand declaration of love, she runs. She feels that she cannot be the person he expects her to be. Then we have her roommate Smith, a rich girl living to please her father and still reeling from the breakup of her engagement. Joining the ladies is Tate, an old college friend, going through a divorce, while figuring out what to do after the sale of his app for millions. Aidan Donnelley Rowley can turn a phrase. At times her writing was poignant and full of heart. Unfortunately, at other times it made the characters come across as whiney and over privileged. The world created was vivid and I loved how the essence of a vibrant New York City came through the pages. The pacing was great, no lagging and the story moved forward at a consistent pace. The characters and the plot were where I lost the love for The Ramblers. The characters have some emotional depth and their struggles were real to them. But it is hard to read about people who treat having seemingly endless wealth no big deal and sympathize with them. Yes, money does not solve all problems and rich people can have problem too, but it makes their struggles less important to me where money can readily solve some of their issues. This is a completely personal judgment, but it does affect my liking of the characters. The Ramblers was a book I enjoyed, but did not love. It had some great points and some crisp writing. I could tell where Aidan Donnelley Rowley was going with it, but I did not follow the whole way. All in all not a bad read, but not an amazing one. I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Holly More than 1 year ago
The Ramblers is a story set over a period of a week and it follows three thirty year old's and their life changing decisions they will have to make over this week. It's the week of Thanksgiving of 2013 and this is how Clio, Smith & Tate, lives are gonna be intertwined in a way that they will all depend on each other in some form or another. Clio is a gifted Ornithologist who comes from a broken childhood, which is effecting her relationship with her boyfriend, Harry. When Clio's mother died the year before, she kept the news to herself but when Harry makes a proposal to live together, it sends Clio on a tailspin not wanting to commit just yet. The decision to sell her childhood home will force Clio to reveal everything to Harry that had happened to her during her childhood. By the end of the week, Clio will come out stronger for revealing the truth and a much brighter future ahead for her and Harry! Smith is from a wealthy family that doesn't understand her life choices and Clio's best friend. When her fiance left her, it left her totally heartbroken but when she discovers her sister got engaged during this time, she doesn't understand how she can be so sad during this happy time in the family. When Tate comes into the picture, she wants to fall in love with him but after thinking it over, she comes to a decision that will make her more happy than she has been in years! Tate is running from a failed marriage and a career that is stalled due to him being indecisive what to do with the rest of his life. Being that he went to college with Clio and Smith and eventually left to pursue bigger things, when he comes back to the city, Smith and Tate hit it off in a time that really isn't good for either one of them. As Tate deals with his soon to be ex-wife and a future that has promise, only a promise to Smith will make him realize that everything happens for a reason! This book had me captivated enough to finish it in just two days, yes it's that great!! I really liked how everything played out over a week's time with each one telling their side of the story with time added to the story so you know when each part was during that week. I'm not much for reading books in a first person telling it but the way that Aidan wrote it, it wasn't so bad for me to get into. I could totally relate to each one of the characters in a way that made it hard to put down the book and I really hope that there will be a continuing story of these three people someday! Thank You to Aidan Donnelley Rowley for writing a book that has me wanting to read more by you!! I received this book from the Goodreads Giveaways in exchange for a honest review. I received this book from the BookSparks 2016 Winter Reads.
FictionLoverNYC More than 1 year ago
dhaupt More than 1 year ago
The Ramblers Aidan Donnelley Rowley 4.5 stars The Ramblers is touted as a “love letter to New York city”, and it is, it’s also a tribute to The Central Park Ramble. As a tried and true Midwesterner I can tell you that the New York she unwraps for readers is exciting and intimidating, feral and sophisticated and I personally love how she in vivid detail reveals the hidden jewels as well as the well-known touristy parts. As a lover of literary fiction I can tell you it's a fantastic, quirky, intelligent, serious and at times humorous look at life in the 21st century be it NYC, St. Louis or Tallahassee. It centers round a trio of protagonists trying to come to grips with life in the big city after each has experienced some personal life trauma. But it's the way the author deals with the aftermath of those traumas that keeps pages turning, how intimate she makes her characters how she bares them good and bad, body and soul to her audience and how life-like and genuine they seem. I also love that these are not teen or twenty something’s but true adults with true adult uncensored problems. I suggest any literary lover will relish this and take it out for a re-read often. This is my first experience with Aidan Donnelley Rowley but it won’t be my last. NYC ornithologist Clio Marsh carries big time baggage from her childhood leaving her unable to commit to a forever relationship. When she started dating older, handsome, workaholic, hotelier Henry Kildare she thought she was safe seeing he was married to his work. But then he went and changed the rules and she doesn't know if she should go running from or to him, or if after he learns all her secrets he’ll even still want her. Smith Mae Anderson is living the perfect NYC, Central Park West, Ivory Towered dysfunctional life. Still trying to move on from her devastating break up with her fiancée, owning an apartment merely feet from her parents where she grew up and owning a business that she loves but that her parents are convinced is “a whim of disobedience” against what they’d ultimately planned for her. Then she reconnects an old classmate from Yale who suddenly has her looking forward to life and just maybe love again. Tate Robert Pennington is back in NYC to start over and climb out of the downward spiral his life has become since the split with his wife. He’s wealthy, single and lonely but he wants more than the empty NY single scene. When he crosses paths with a girl from his college days whose become a beautiful, interesting woman he thinks maybe he’s found his way out of his doldrums dilemma.