When to Walk

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One part Melissa Bank and another part George Saunders, When to Walk is a laceratingly funny and deeply compassionate take on how one woman reinvents herself and learns that, no matter how late, there can always be a new beginning in life. When Ramble’s husband calls her an “autistic vampire” and abruptly ends their marriage over lunch, she isn’t quite sure what to do. She has no rent money, a looming deadline for work, and new neighbors who seem to have involved her in petty crime. Faced with the dissolution of ...

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Overview

One part Melissa Bank and another part George Saunders, When to Walk is a laceratingly funny and deeply compassionate take on how one woman reinvents herself and learns that, no matter how late, there can always be a new beginning in life. When Ramble’s husband calls her an “autistic vampire” and abruptly ends their marriage over lunch, she isn’t quite sure what to do. She has no rent money, a looming deadline for work, and new neighbors who seem to have involved her in petty crime. Faced with the dissolution of a life she hadn’t really wanted, Ramble takes stock of what she has left. In Rebecca Gowers’s sharp debut, Ramble begins to reconsider everything her screwy family and unreliable but loyal friends have taught her so far. She spends a week taking apart her life and deciding which parts she wants to keep. Called “a mercurial delight” by the New Statesman and “brilliant . . . unforgettable” by Scotland on Sunday, When to Walk is a disarmingly honest portrayal of a young woman coming into her own—lit with hope, rich in magnificent characters, and hilariously wise.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

British writer Gowers follows her nonfiction work on Victorian criminals, The Swamp of Death, with a fictive weeklong journey inside the head of Ramble, a London woman quietly going crazy. Handicapped, partially deaf Ramble provides first-person narration that careens from her thoughts on photocopying pound notes to her grandmother's childhood to 1840s Stamp Office clerks with barely a breath. When husband Con calls her an "autistic vampire" and takes off with the petty criminal living downstairs, Ramble comes unglued, and the narrative goes along with her: "Remedial wise, give HER! The short shrift treatment NOW! And in a few days hence you will be beholding to no one: a law unto yourself. Oh yes!" While several quirky characters - particularly Stella, Ramble's dementia-suffering grandmother, and Johnson Pike, her childhood friend-are well imagined, Ramble's voice isn't enough to hold the book together as she flies apart. (Oct.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
A momentous week in the life of a bright, withdrawn young English woman whose husband has just left her. A self-described "hack" travel writer with a noticeable limp caused by a teenage illness, Ramble is shocked, but somehow not surprised, when her husband Con informs her that their marriage is over. Telling her cruelly that she is an "autistic vampire" who needs to find her own life, the obnoxiously self-absorbed Con is right about one thing-Ramble is an especially insular character. She prefers books to meeting new people and while she possesses a keen mind constantly buzzing with fascinating bits of information, she nonetheless has difficulty communicating. She even avoids telling people for days that Con is gone, increasing her isolation. Con does not say where he is staying or what she should do about the rent. But he has, it appears, taken up with their streetwise new neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Shaw, a couple of low-level criminals specializing in credit-card fraud and "fixing" meters. While trying to absorb this unexpected twist, Ramble walks around in a kind of post-traumatic haze, going through the motions of her normal life while trying to make sense of the past choices that led her to her current crisis. Showing flashes of dark wit and a slow-to-emerge vulnerability, Ramble ultimately manages some meaningful interactions within her small circle, including a visit to her senile grandmother Stella and an unexpectedly sensual evening with childhood friend Johnson. She also finds an unlikely ally in the tough-talking Mrs. Shaw, whose stories of her own husband's regular disappearances help Ramble gain perspective on her own difficulties. These various characters, along with somequietly devastating insights, give our heroine courage for the literal and metaphorical steps she knows she must take, making the conclusion of Gowers's occasionally inscrutable debut heartening indeed. A sharp, literate roman a clef for readers who like their female empowerment free from sentimentality.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781841959467
  • Publisher: Canongate Books
  • Publication date: 10/10/2007
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.60 (d)

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