Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley
First Released: 2022
Setting: London, England
Call Number: FICTION POOLEY
Find It: Physical copy on the 3rd floor, eBook and eAudiobook from Libby, Axis 360
Iona Iverson is an eccentric London commuter, the type that travels with her dog and large handbag (yes, that type of commuter.) She is 57 and works as an advice columnist, but her editor thinks she is way past her prime and needs to retire. Iona and her wife, Bea, were famous socialites in their younger days, and Iona is annoyed that she’s being talked down to or simply ignored by her less-experienced colleagues.
Every day on the train, Iona sees the same people, and she has nicknames for them. (It turns out they have nicknames for her, too.) One day, “Smart-but-Sexist-Manspreader” Piers chokes on a grape and is saved by another commuter, changing their lives. The surrounding commuters start looking forward to seeing each other, gradually start teasing and chatting with one another, becoming friends and supporting each other in wonderful and lasting ways. Iona orchestrates their new leases on life as they try to be more like her. One of the more timely storylines is of the teenager who is slut-shamed by her classmates, and Iona helps her gain confidence by trying out for the school play. Every character has significant personal problems that they want Iona to help them through. And Iona needs her new friends just as much, too.
At first glance, this seems like a funny and lighthearted read, which is not the kind of book I normally read. But I enjoyed it a lot. It had enough seriousness to keep me reading and interested. Sanjay reading Pride and Prejudice to impress Emmie was adorable. I think the book takes on difficult topics like ageism and toxic relationships well. Maybe the book struck a chord with me because it reminded me of the days when I commuted on the train to the city, too, and people rarely spoke to each other. This book seemed like a response to our 21st-century habit of always scrolling on our devices with our headphones while in public. So, if you’re looking for something uplifting, filled with different personalities and unlikely friendships, this might be the book for you.
Dele Weds Destiny by Tomi Obaro
First Released: 2022
Setting: Lagos, Nigeria
Call Number: FICTION OBARO
Find It: Physical copy on the 3rd floor and large print
Three Nigerian women graduate from college, remain friends and reunite in Lagos for a daughter’s wedding 30 years later. Dele Weds Destiny is a lush novel filled with friendship told from the point of view of all three women, in short, alternating chapters. Funmi, the mother of the bride, who’s a bit hard on her daughter. Funmi married money, but it hasn’t made her happy. There’s Zainab, whose husband has had debilitating strokes, and she’s left to care for him since their sons are grown. And Enitan, who eloped with an American, moved to New York and has a biracial daughter.
After setting up Zainab’s and Enitan’s arrivals in Lagos, the story shifts to the past and their tumultuous college days. Their meeting at auditions for Zainab’s play was funny! I enjoyed reading about how the young women became lifelong friends, being there for each other in life’s most difficult moments. But friendship means telling someone the truth, even when they don’t want to hear it. These women are each other’s truth-tellers.
What I loved about this book (besides the gorgeous cover) is that the women are not constantly bickering or out to get each other. They truly care about each other’s well-being and want what’s best for each other. I read Wahala by Nikki May earlier this year, and while I liked the similar storyline centered around friendship, the ultimate betrayal was disturbing. I also loved the cultural details Obaro writes about, particularly the food and wedding preparations. I thought they added a lot to the story. Dele Weds Destiny is a book about friendship, accepting who you are and your truth.
Keya Das’s Second Act by Sopan Deb
First Released: 2022
Setting: New Jersey
Call Number: FICTION DEB
Find It: Physical copy on the 3rd floor, eBook and eAudiobook from Libby
Keya Das is a young woman who comes out to her traditional Indian family. They don’t handle it well, so she basically stops talking to them. When she dies tragically in a car accident soon after, the family falls apart. Her parents’ divorce. Her mother, Chaitali, quickly remarries, and her older sister, Mitali, stops coming by for visits to either parent. Her father, Shantanu, takes the death especially hard, unable to accept it even five years later. He decides to sell the house and finds boxes of Keya’s writings, including a play she had written. The family eventually decides to stage the play, even getting Keya’s girlfriend’s approval first.
This book is ultimately about forgiveness. Keya’s family is angry at themselves for not accepting her and telling her that they loved her when they had the chance. And they believe that putting on her play will finally give them an opportunity to do something for her. It also makes them work through their grief together. I thought it was interesting that each character was fully developed, even Mitali’s new boyfriend. Each person has a less-than-perfect history, which matters in their Indian social circles.
Shantanu is such a great character. Even in his grief, he goes to see a therapist, accepts Mitali’s gift of improv classes and meets someone. The story is so quirky, and the characters are so flawed and charming that I read this book in two days! I highly recommend it.