Thursday, August 6, 2020

Showcase Rules of the Road by Clara Geraghty Park Row Books



Today I'm excited to bring you another fabulous offering from Harper Collins/Harlequin's newest imprint Park Row Books, Rules of the Road by Clara Geraghty. Phaedra Patrick author of The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper says “A beautiful, touching story that both warms and breaks the heart. A poignant celebration of the power of friendship and how to live life your own way.”
Take a look and see why this book is at the top rung of my TBR ladder.
Enjoy!

ISBN-13:
 9780778309710
Publisher: Park Row Books

Release Date: 8-04-2020

Length:
 384pp

ADD TO: GOODREADS

Overview:
The simple fact of the matter is that Iris loves life. Maybe she’s forgotten that. Sometimes that happens, doesn’t it? To the best of us? All I have to do is remind her of that one simple fact.

Tuesday morning starts like any other—until Terry discovers her best friend, Iris, has gone missing. Finding her takes Terry, Iris and Terry’s confused father, Eugene, on an extraordinary journey, one that will change all of their lives. And along the way, what should be the worst six days of Terry’s life turn into the best.

Because friendship teaches us all to be brave—and that sometimes the rules are made to be broken.


Read an excerpt:

1

Signal your intent.
Iris Armstrong is missing.
That is to say, she is not where she is supposed to be.
I am trying not to worry. After all, Iris is a grown woman and can take care of herself better than most.
It’s true to say that I am a worrier. Ask my girls. Ask my husband. They’ll tell you that I’d worry if I had nothing to worry about. Which is, of course, an exaggeration, although I suppose it’s true to say that, if I had nothing to worry about, I might feel that I had overlooked something.
Iris is the type of woman who tells you what she intends to do and then goes ahead and does it. Today is her birthday. Her fifty-eighth.
“People see birthdays as an opportunity to tell women they look great for their age,” Iris says when I suggested that we celebrate it.
It’s true that Iris looks great for her age. I don’t say that.
Instead, I say, “We should celebrate nonetheless.”
“I’ll celebrate by doing the swan. Or the downward-facing dog. Something animalistic,” said Iris after she told me about the yoga retreat she had booked herself into.
“But you hate yoga,” I said.
“I thought you’d be delighted. You’re always telling me how good yoga is for people with MS.”
My plan today was to visit Dad, then ring the yoga retreat in Wicklow to let them know I’m driving down with a birthday cake for Iris. So they’ll know it’s her birthday. Iris won’t want a fuss of course, but everyone should have cake on their birthday.
But when I arrive at Sunnyside Nursing Home, my father is sitting in the reception area with one of the managers. On the floor beside his chair is his old suitcase, perhaps a little shabby around the edges now but functional all the same. A week, the manager says. That’s how long it will take for the exterminators to do what they need to do, apparently. Vermin, he calls them, by which I presume he means rats, because if it was just mice, he’d say mice, wouldn’t he?
My father lives in a rat-infested old folks’ home where he colors in between the lines and loses at bingo and sings songs and waits for my mother to come back from the shops soon.
“I can transfer your father to one of our other facilities, if you’d prefer,” the manager offers. “No, I’ll take him,” I say. It’s the least I can do. I thought I could look after him myself, at home, like my mother did for years. I thought I could cope. Six months I lasted. Before I had to put him into Sunnyside.
I put Dad’s suitcase into the boot beside the birthday cake. I’ve used blue icing for the sea, gray for the rocks where I’ve perched an icing stick figure which is supposed to be Iris, who swims at High Rock every day of the year. Even in November. Even in February. She swims like it’s July. Every day. I think she’ll get a kick out of the cake. It took me ages to finish it. Much longer than the recipe book suggested. Brendan says it’s because I’m too careful. The cake does not look like it’s been made by someone who is too careful. There is a precarious slant to it, as if it’s been subjected to adverse weather conditions.
I belt Dad into the passenger seat. “Where is your mother?” he asks.
“She’ll be back from the shops soon,” I say. I’ve stopped telling him that she’s dead. He gets too upset, every time. The grief on his face is so fresh, so vivid, it feels like my grief, all over again, and I have to look away, close my eyes, dig my nails into the fleshy part of my hands.
I get into the car, turn over the engine.
“Signal your intent,” Dad says, in that automatic way he does when he recites the rules of the road. He remembers all of them. There must be some cordoned-off areas in your brain where dementia cannot reach.
I indicate as instructed, then ring the yoga retreat before driving off.
But Iris is not there. She never arrived.
In fact, according to the receptionist who speaks in the calm tones of someone who practices yoga every day, there is no record of a booking for an Iris Armstrong.
Iris told me not to ring her mobile this week. It would be turned off.
I ring her mobile. It’s turned off.
I drive to Iris’s cottage in Feltrim. The curtains are drawn across every window. It looks just the way it should: like the house of a woman who has gone away. I pull into the driveway that used to accommodate her ancient Jaguar. Her sight came back almost immediately after the accident, and the only damage was to the lamppost that Iris crashed into, but her consultant couldn’t guarantee that it wouldn’t happen again. Iris says she doesn’t miss the car, but she asked me if I would hand over the keys to the man who bought it off her. She said she had a meeting she couldn’t get out of.
“It’s just a car,” she said, “and the local taxi driver looks like Daniel Craig. And he doesn’t talk during sex, and knows every rat run in the city.” “I’ll just be a minute, Dad,” I tell him, opening my car door.
“Take your time, love,” he says. He never used to call me love.
The grass in the front garden has benefited from a recent mow. I stand at the front door, ring the bell. Nobody answers. I cast about the garden. It’s May. The cherry blossom tree, whose branches last week were swollen with buds, is now a riot of pale pink flowers. The delicacy of their beauty is disarming, but also sad, how soon the petals will be discarded, strewn across the grass in a week or so, like wet and muddy confetti in a church courtyard long after the bride and groom have left.
I rap on the door even though I’m almost positive Iris isn’t inside.
Where is she?
I ring the Alzheimer’s Society, ask to be put through to Iris’s office, but the receptionist tells me what I already know. That Iris is away on a week’s holiday.
“Is that you, Terry?” she asks and there is confusion in her voice; she is wondering why I don’t already know this.
“Eh, yes, Rita, sorry, don’t mind me, I forgot.”
Suddenly I am flooded with the notion that Iris is inside the house. She has fallen. That must be it. She has fallen and is unconscious at the foot of the stairs. She might have been there for ages. Days maybe. This worry is a galvanizing one. Not all worries fall into this category. Some render me speechless. Or stationary. The wooden door at the entrance to the side passage is locked, so I haul the wheelie bin over, grip the sides of it, and hoist myself onto the lid. People think height is an advantage, but I have never found mine—five feet ten inches, or 1.778 meters, I should say—to be so. Imperial or metric, the fact is I am too tall to be kneeling on the lid of a wheelie bin. I am a myriad of arms and elbows and knees. It’s difficult to know where to put everything.
I grip the top of the door, sort of haul myself over the top, graze my knee against the wall, and hesitate, but only for a moment, before lowering myself down as far as I can before letting go, landing in a heap in the side passage. I should be fitter than this. The girls are always on at me to take up this or that. Swimming or running or Pilates. Get you out of the house. Get you doing something.
The shed in Iris’s back garden has been treated to a clear-out; inside, garden tools hang on hooks along one wall, the hose coiled neatly in a corner and the half-empty paint tins—sealed shut with rust years ago—are gone. It’s true that I advised her to dispose of them—carefully—given the fire hazard they presented. Still, I can’t believe that she actually went ahead and did it. Even the small window on the gable wall of the shed is no longer a mesh of web. Through it, I see a square of pale blue sky.
The spare key is in an upside-down plant pot in the shed, in spite of my concerns about the danger of lax security about the homestead.
I return to the driveway and check on Dad. He is still there, still in the front passenger seat, singing along to the Frank Sinatra CD I put on for him. Strangers in the Night.
I unlock the front door. The house feels empty. There is a stillness.
“Iris?” My voice is loud in the quiet, my breath catching the dust motes, so that they lift and swirl in the dead air.
I walk through the hallway, towards the kitchen. The walls are cluttered with black-and-white photographs in wooden frames. A face in each, mostly elderly. All of them have passed through the Alzheimer’s Society and when they do, Iris asks if she can take their photograph.
My father’s photograph hangs at the end of the hallway. There is a light in his eyes that might be the sunlight glancing through the front door. A trace of his handsomeness still there across the fine bones of his face framed by the neat helmet of his white hair, thicker then.
He looks happy. No, it’s more than that. He looks present. “Iris?” The kitchen door moans when I open it. A squirt of WD-40 on the hinges would remedy that.
A chemical, lemon smell. If I didn’t know any better, I would suspect a cleaning product. The surfaces are clear. Bare. So too is the kitchen table, which is where Iris spreads her books, her piles of paperwork, sometimes the contents of her handbag when she is hunting for something. The table is solid oak. I have eaten here many times, and have rarely seen its surface. It would benefit from a sand and varnish.
In the sitting room, the curtains are drawn and the cushions on the couch look as though they’ve been plumped, a look which would be unremarkable in my house, but is immediately noticeable in Iris’s. Iris loves that couch. She sometimes sleeps on it. I know that because I called in once, early in the morning. She wasn’t expecting me. Iris is the only person in the world I would call into without ringing first. She put on the kettle when I arrived. Made a pot of strong coffee. It was the end of Dad’s first week in the home.
She said she’d fallen asleep on the couch, when she saw me looking at the blankets and pillows strewn across it. She said she’d fallen asleep watching The Exorcist.
But I don’t think that’s why she slept on the couch. I think it’s to do with the stairs. Sometimes I see her, at the Alzheimer’s offices, negotiating the stairs with her crutches. The sticks, she calls them. She hates waiting for the lift. And she makes it look easy, climbing the stairs. But it can’t be easy, can it?
Besides, who falls asleep watching The Exorcist?
“Iris?” I hear an edge of panic in my voice. It’s not that anything is wrong exactly. Or out of place.
Except that’s it. There’s nothing out of place. Everything has been put away.
I walk up the stairs. More photographs on the landing, the bedroom doors all closed. I knock on the door of Iris’s bedroom. “Iris?” There is no answer. I open the door. The room is dark. I make out the silhouette of Iris’s bed and, as my eyes adapt to the compromised light, I see that the bed has been stripped, the pillows arranged in two neat stacks by the headboard. There are no books on the nightstand. Maybe she took them with her. To the yoga retreat.
But she is not at the yoga retreat.
Panic is like a taste at the back of my throat. The wardrobe door, which usually hangs open in protest at the melee of clothing inside, is shut. The floorboards creak beneath my weight. I stretch my hand out, reach for the handle, and then sort of yank it open as if I am not frightened of what might be inside.
There is nothing inside. In the draft, empty hangers sway against each other, making a melancholy sound. I close the door and open the drawers of the tallboy on the other side of the room. Empty. All of them.
In the bathroom there is no toothbrush lying on its side on the edge of the sink, spooling a puddle of toothpaste. There are no damp towels draped across the rim of the bath. The potted plants—which flourish here in the steam—are gone.
I hear a car horn blaring, and rush into the spare room, which Iris uses as her home office. Jerk open the blinds, peer at the driveway below. My car is still there. And so is Dad. I see his mouth moving as he sings along. I rap at the window, but he doesn’t look up. When I turn around, I notice a row of black bin bags, neatly tied at the top with twine, leaning against the far wall. They are tagged, with the name of Iris’s local charity shop.
Now panic travels from my mouth down my throat into my chest, expands there until it’s difficult to breathe. I try to visualize my breath, as Dr. Martin suggests. Try to see the shape it takes in a brown paper bag when I breathe into one.
I pull Iris’s chair out from under her desk, lower myself onto it. Even the paper clips have been tidied into an old earring box. I pick up two paper clips and attach them together. Good to have something to do with my hands. I reach for a third when I hear a high plink that nearly lifts me out of the chair. I think it came from Iris’s laptop, closed on the desk. An incoming mail or a Tweet or something. I should turn it off. It’s a fire hazard. A plugged-in computer. I lift the lid of the laptop. On the screen, what looks like a booking form. An Irish Ferries booking form. On top of the keyboard are two white envelopes, warm to the touch. Iris’s large, flamboyant handwriting is unmistakable on both.
One reads Vera Armstrong. Her mother’s name. The second envelope is addressed to me.

2

You must always be aware of your speed and judge the appropriate speed for your vehicle.
“The speed limit on a regional road is eighty kilometers per hour,” Dad says.
“Sorry, I’m...in a hurry.” I glance in the rearview mirror. I think I hear sirens, but I see no police cars behind me.
In my peripheral vision, Iris’s letter, in a crumpled ball at the top of my handbag.
My dearest Terry,
The first thing you should know is there was nothing you could have done. My mind was made up.
Panic is spinning my thoughts around and around, faster and faster, until it’s difficult to make out individual ones.
“Did I ever tell you about the time I had Frank Sinatra in the taxi?” says Dad.
“No.” Most of my conversations with my father are crippled with lies. “It was a Friday night, and I was driving down Harcourt Street. The traffic was terrible because of the...the stuff...the water...”
“Rain?”
“Yes, rain and...”
The second thing you should know is there was nothing you could have done. My mind was made up.
The lights are red and I jerk to a stop. The brakes screech. The car is due for a National Car Test next month. I need to get it serviced before then. Brendan says I should get a new one. A little runaround, he says. Something easier to park. But I like the heft of the Volvo. It’s true that it’s nearing its sell-by date. Maybe even past it. But I feel safe inside it. And it’s never let me down.
“...and I said to Frank I know the words to all your songs and...”
...but please know that this is a decision I have come to after a long, thorough thought process and I do not and will not regret it.
I’ve never been to Dublin Port before. I park in a disabled spot. I have no permit to do so.
“Dad, will you stay here? I have to... I have to do something.” “Of course, love, no problem.”
“Promise me you won’t get out of the car?”
“Are you going to pick up your mother?”
“Swear you’ll stay here ’til I get back.”
...and perhaps it is too much for me to ask; that you understand my choice, but I hope you do because your opinion is important to me and...
My father looks at me with curiosity as if he’s trying to work out who I am, and perhaps he is. It is sometimes difficult to tell what he knows for sure and what he pretends to remember.
I bend towards him, put my hand on his shoulder. “I’ll be back soon, okay?”
He smiles a gappy smile, which means he’s taken out his dentures again. Last time I found them inside one of Anna’s old trainers in the boot.
“You’ll be back soon,” he says, and I tell him I will, and close the door and lock him into the car.
...practical arrangements have been taken care of with the clinic in Switzerland and are enclosed for your...
If the car catches fire, he won’t be able to get out. He’ll be burned alive. Or suffocated with the smoke. But the car has never caught fire, so why would it today? Of all days? I hesitate. Brendan would call it dithering.
...only a matter of time before that happens, which is why it needs to be now, before I am no longer able to...
I run through the car park, towards the terminal building. I try not to think about anything. Instead, I concentrate on the sound of my soles thumping against the ground, the sound of my breath, hot and strained, the sound of my heart, thumping in my chest like a fist.
My dearest Terry,
The first thing you should know is...
I spot Iris immediately. She’s easy to spot even though she’s not all that tall. She seems taller than she is.
The relief is palpable. Solid as a wall. She’s in a queue, doing her best to wait her turn. She does not look like a woman who is planning to end her life in a clinic in Switzerland. She looks like her usual self. Her steel-gray hair cropped close to her scalp, no makeup, no jewelry, no nonsense. It’s only when the queue shuffles forward, you notice the crutches, and still, after all this time, they seem so peculiar in her big, capable hands. So unnecessary.
I stand for a moment and stare at her. My first thought is that Iris was wrong. There is something I can do. What that something is, I haven’t worked out yet. But the fact that I’m here. That’s she’s still here. I haven’t missed her. It’s a Sign, isn’t it?
The relief is so huge, so insistent, there’s no room for any other feeling in my head. I’m full to the brim with it. I’m choking on it. My voice sounds strange when I call her name.
“Iris.” She can’t hear me over the crowd. I walk nearer. “Iris? IRIS!”
Heads turn towards me, and I can feel my face flooding with heat. I concentrate on Iris, who turns her face towards me, her wide, green eyes fastening on me.
“Terry? What the fuck are you doing here?”
Iris’s propensity to curse was the only thing my mother did not like about her.
My mouth is dry and the relief has deserted me and my body is pounding with...I don’t know...adrenaline maybe. Or fear. I feel cold all of a sudden. Clammy. I step closer. Open my mouth. What I say next is important. It might be the most important thing I’ve ever said, except I can’t think of anything. Not a single thing. Not one word. Instead, I rummage in my handbag, pull out her letter, do my best to smooth it so she’ll recognize it. So she’ll know. I hold it up.
When Iris sees the page, she sort of freezes so that, when the queue shuffles forward, she does not move, and the person behind—engrossed in his phone—walks into the back of her.
“Oh, sorry,” he says. Iris doesn’t glare at him. She doesn’t even look at him, as if she hasn’t noticed his intrusion into her personal space, another of her pet hates. Instead, she nudges her luggage—an overnight bag—along the floor with a crutch, then follows it.
I stand there, holding the creased page. People stare.
I lower my hand, walk towards her. “What are you doing?” I hiss at her.
She won’t look at me. “You know what I’m doing. You read my note.” She concentrates on the back of the man’s head in front of her. The collar of his suit jacket is destroyed with dandruff.
I fold my arms tightly across my chest, making fists of my hands to stop the shake of them. I should have thought more about what I was going to say. I don’t know what I thought about in the car. I don’t think I thought of anything. Except getting here.
And now I’m here, and I can’t think of what to say. Or do.
“Iris,” I finally manage. “Say something.” “I’ve explained everything in my letter.” She looks straight ahead, as though she’s talking to someone in front of her. Not to me. People in the queue crane their necks to get their fill of us.
“I’ve read it,” I say, “and I’m none the wiser.”
“I’m sorry, Terry.” She lowers her head, her voice smaller now. A crack in her armor that I might be able to prize open.
I put my hand on her arm. “It’s okay, Iris. It’s going to be okay. We’ll just get into my car. I’m parked right outside. Dad’s in the car by himself so we need to...”
“Your dad? Why is he here?”
“There’re rats. In Sunnyside. Well...vermin, which I took to mean...but look, I’ll tell you about it in the car, okay?”
“How did you know I’d be here?” Iris says.
“I saw the booking form. On your computer.”
“You hacked into my laptop?”
“Of course not! You left your computer on, which, by the way, is a fire hazard. Not to mention the security risk of not having a password.”
“You broke into my house?”
“No! I used the key you keep in the...” I lower my voice “...shed.”
The queue shuffles forward, and Iris prods her bag with her stick, follows it. She is nearly at the head now.
“Iris,” I call after her, “come on.” “I’m sorry, Terry,” she says again, looking at me. “I’m taking this boat.” Her voice is filled with the kind of clarity nobody argues with. I’ve seen her in action. At various committee meetings at the Alzheimer’s Society. That’s another thing she hates. Committees. She prefers deciding on a course of action and making it happen. That’s usually how it pans out.
I stand there, my hands dangling uselessly from the ends of my rigid, straight arms.
“I am not going to allow you to do this,” I say then.
“Next,” the man at the ticket office calls.
Iris bends to pick up her overnight bag. I see the tremor running like an electrical current down the length of her arm. I know better than to help. Anyway, why would I help? I’m here to hinder, not to help.
I’m not really a hinderer, as such.
Iris says I’m a facilitator, but really, I just go along with things. Try not to attract attention.
Iris hooks her bag onto the handle of the crutch, strides towards the man at the hatch. Even with her sticks, she strides.
I stumble after her.
“I’m collecting a ticket,” she says. “Iris Armstrong. To Holyhead.” The man pecks at his keyboard with short, fat fingers. “One way?” he asks.
Iris nods.

Other books by Ciara



About the author:
Ciara Geraghty is an internationally bestselling author who was born and raised in Dublin. She started writing in her thirties and hasn't looked back. She has three children and one husband and they have recently adopted a dog who, alongside their youngest daughter, is in charge of pretty much everything.

6 comments:

  1. This is not my go-to style of book, but once in a while I adore them. With the Phaedra Patrick endorsement, I definitely need to try this one.

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    1. Yes hers was the reason its at the top of my pile

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  2. This looks good and I like to pick this genre up here and there. Thanks for spotlighting it.

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    1. my pleasure I hope you get a chance to read it Kim

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  3. Actually this sounds very readable!

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