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When to Walkby Rebecca Gowers
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"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." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Clever, comical and unpredictable, When to Walk took me inside the mind of a woman half-way between stupor and crack-up, a mind in an odd equilibrium, half appalled and half wonderstruck by existence. I love the way the narrator thinks. She's clever, obtuse, pliant, stubborn, solemn, funny, easy-going, angry; a teasing creation." Tim Pears
"As darkly funny as Sylvia Plath and as eccentric as George Saunders. Gowers is a genius." Scarlett Thomas
"In spite of her frailties, Ramble is an engaging and entertaining narrator." Library Journal
"A sharp, literate roman à clef for readers who like their female empowerment free from sentimentality." Kirkus Reviews
About the Author
Rebecca Gowers was born in the West Country and brought up, south of the river, in London. She currently lives in Oxford. Her first book, The Swamp of Death, was shortlisted in 2004 for a CWA Non-Fiction Golden Dagger Award. When to Walk is her first novel and was longlisted for the Orange Broadband Prize for Fiction 2007.
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