Rules of the Road
By Ciara Geraghty. (Park Row Books, 384 pages, $17.99.)
In a classic road novel, the protagonist sets out on a journey and at the end becomes a changed and perhaps better person. The fun — or the drama, or the tragedy — is all in the getting there.
Ciara Geraghty's "Rules of the Road" follows this structure. Terry lives in Ireland with her husband, whom she likes well enough, when she thinks about it, and he probably likes her too, more or less. She's kind and generous, a bit timid, doesn't like to drive, avoids busy cities, and in general is much better at advocating for others rather than herself.
And then one day, after picking up her elderly father from the care home where he lives, she stops by to visit her best friend, Iris, and finds that Iris is missing. Clothes gone. Notes left.
Iris — whose multiple sclerosis has gotten progressively worse — has set out for Switzerland, where assisted suicide is legal.
Confused old father in tow, Terry leaps into the car and the road trip is on. Traffic fears, domestic responsibilities, husband's bafflement — none of that matters in the face of finding Iris, talking her out of her plan and dragging her back home.
What follows is a bittersweet and highly romantic journey as the two old friends (and elderly dad) head East across England toward the Continent, and fate.
Occasionally funny, mostly implausible, but filled with wonderful food, dancing in the moonlight, serendipity and tears, this novel is a joyous and poignant read.