iona book review

Iona Iverson's Rules for Commuting

“Why had it taken her so long to see her train carriage as a fascinating portal into other people’s stories, rather than just a way of getting from A to B?”

Iona Iverson has given advice through her magazine column for as long as she can remember. According to her editor, it’s been too long.

Just as her life seems to be derailing after many years of a good thing, a man on her London train commute (whom she refers to as “Smart-But-Sexist-Manspreader”) chokes on a grape and changes her route in life.

Clare Pooley takes readers on a whimsical, quirky ride in “Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting.” Giving substance to something as simple as a train commute to work, Pooley serves up a cast of characters who surprisingly fit together to form a traveling dysfunctional found family.

With Iona as the ringleader, using her career skills, she helps her new friends – Piers, Sanjay, Emmie, Martha and David – navigate life’s problems in a way that helps distract her from her own.

Every chapter is from the perspective of a different commuter. Through the use of multiple points of view, Pooley is able to combine genres by giving each character a different problem. From school bullies to midlife career changes to abusive relationships, the author covers a myriad of relatable subject matters with flawless transitions from chapter to chapter.

Along with the other characters, Iona has her own set of lovable and unique circumstances.

She is a proudly gay female icon who has been toting her dog, Lulu, with her everywhere she goes, including the train and the office.

Not only does she make her presence known, but she doesn’t apologize for the confident, and at times brash, way she carries herself.

As Iona is forced to face the unrelentless act of aging, her new train gang ironically ends up helping the advice columnist through her own bumps in the journey.

Even though Pooley is dealing with a handful of heavy topics, her writing style brings a much-needed levity, elevating the enjoyment of the book by adding warmth and humor to the story.

As a character-driven novel, the pace is a bit slow in parts, but the rich character development easily makes up for the small lags in action.

Usually commuting is a negative word, filling minds with loud, dirty and crowded ideas of traveling to work. Pooley has turned that stereotypical description on its side with the chronicles of Iona’s train rides in her uplifting take on an everyday routine.

This literary ride with Iona and her newfound commuting companions was definitely a trip worth taking.

Christy Keller is a page designer for The Journal Gazette.

Page Designer and Book Reviewer

Christy Keller has been a Page Designer with The Journal Gazette since 2003. She also reviews books.