“In the last few months, I have lost my son, my spouse, and my house. Every morning I wake up and for a few seconds I’m disoriented, confused as to why I feel grief seeping into my body, and then I remember what has become of my life.”
Ariel Levy, an accomplished and successful staff writer at the New Yorker, had everything she wanted in her life. Until she didn’t. In startling fashion (as these things tend to happen), Ariel’s whole life unraveled. Her marriage disseminated. Her pregnancy ended. Her hope for the future evaporated. Just like that.
But let’s backtrack a bit. Ariel met the love of her life during a blackout in New York in her 20’s. The only problem? Lucy, the woman Ariel knew she was destined to spend her life with, was already in a long-term relationship with a woman in California. But, as was Ariel’s way, she didn’t let that little hiccup ruin her plans. Fast forward a few years and Ariel and Lucy have established a beautiful home for themselves, full of love. And cats. They were both ambitious in their careers–Ariel’s as a writer and Lucy’s as an entrepreneur–which defined who they were, in a sense. Ariel’s career was wildly successful, Lucy’s not exactly as much. Of course they had problems — who doesn’t? Ariel had an affair with a former lover, Lucy hit the bottle a little too hard and a little too often.
While there was a bit of tension in their home life, Ariel, at the ripe age of 38, decided she wanted a family. She wanted to make a baby. So she found someone to make a baby with, a man who would donate his sperm and his wealth in a decidedly hands-off fashion. And it worked. Ariel was with child at 38. And, being the rule-breaker she fancied herself as, she decided that being with child was not going to stop her from traveling the world to cover stories for the magazine. So, she went to Mongolia. It was there, in a hotel bathroom on the other side of the world, that Ariel Levy lost her baby. And with it, her future and her hope for a family. She came home, without her child, to a wife who was dealing with her alcoholism on her own terms. In the process of getting help for Lucy, Ariel lost her house, as well as her marriage. But she still goes on, day after day, sharing her story with the world. And that’s really what it’s all about, isn’t it?
That’s what makes The Rules Do Not Apply so compelling. It’s all of us, but not really any of us at the same time. No one has experienced the exact sorrow and heartbreak that Ariel did, but we all have experienced both emotions in some way. And she puts a voice to the feelings we’ve all lived with and trudged through at some point. She brings an incredible insight into her life, the decisions she made and the consequences she was faced with. I would be lying if I said I didn’t run through this book in three days flat. It was just so good, so powerful, so sorrowful, so true. I really, really enjoyed it (as much as you can enjoy a story like this). Two thumbs up to this incredible lady. Two huge thumbs up.
My favorite scene: Is it corny to say the whole thing was my favorite? There are a few interactions with a South African physician that are really poignant, really insightful. There are the scenes where Lucy and Ariel are falling in love and they make you recall the emotions you felt at the start of your own love story. There’s the scene in the Mongolian hotel that absolutely breaks your heart as Ariel loses not only her child but her whole future. I know I already said it, but I remember marveling about how Ariel really picked through her own life, laid the blame for things not where she thinks they should go but where they actually belonged and didn’t hold back in admitting her mistakes in judgement and action. So good. So, so good.