Wednesday, 26 February 2020
Rules of the Road by Ciara Geraghty
Release Date: 2nd May 2019
Publisher: Harper Collins
Publisher: Harper Collins
A heartfelt and uplifting story of friendship and the joy it brings in life.
When Iris Armstrong goes missing, her best friend Terry, wife, mother and all-round worrier, is convinced something bad has happened.
And when she finds her glamorous, feisty friend, she’s right: Iris is setting out on a journey that she plans to make her last.
The only way for Terry to stop Iris is to join her, on a road trip that will take them and Terry’s confused father Eugene onto a ferry, across the Irish sea and into an adventure that will change all of their lives.
Somehow what should be the worst six days of Terry’s life turn into the best.
Honest and emotional, Ciara Geraghty examines family, ageing parents, marriage, life and loss with warmth in a book that grown-up readers will adore.
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 folk’s home where he colours 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, grey 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 practises 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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ciara Geraghty 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.