Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley


I read this NYT best seller because it was mentioned by a young woman I follow on Twitter who had been a reporter for our newspaper. Though I don’t know her, I empathize with all the former reporters and mourn their loss. And I enjoy seeing her excitement about Mizzou sports. All this to say this is not my usual source for books to read. It has been, nevertheless, the perfect book for the moment.

Iona is a dramatic figure who rides the commuter train daily from Hampton Court to London Waterloo. Hampton Court was built for Cardinal Wolsey who gave it to Henry VIII when he fell from favor (thanks to Hilary Mantel for putting Cardinal Wolsey, mentor to Thomas Cromwell, in my head). Iona’s #2 rule (“Never talk to strangers on the train”) had to be broken when a man sitting near her was choking (on a grape it turns out) and Iona had to call for someone to help.

A little band of friends developed around the magnetic Iona and her little dog Lulu:  Piers, who nearly choked; Sanjay, a nurse who saved him; Emmie, a woman Sanjay admires from afar; Martha, a high school student who threw up on Piers’ computer; and David, whose wife put a note in his lunchbox letting him know she couldn’t do this any more. They all have problems and even Iona turns out to need them, too. There’s never any doubt that the problems will be resolved and that problematic foes are either vanquished or turn out to be much better people than expected. As I said, it was a perfect book.

Clare Pooley, Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting, Viking, 2022, 342 pages (I read the kindle version). Available in the public library.

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