candor and tender humor, acclaimed novelist Ayelet Waldman has crafted a
strikingly beautiful novel for our time, tackling the absurdities of
modern life and reminding us why we love some people no matter what.
For Emilia Greenleaf, life is by turns a comedy of errors and an
emotional minefield. Yes, she's a Harvard Law grad who married her soul
mate. Yes, they live in elegant comfort on the Upper West Side of
Manhattan. But with her one-and-only, Jack, came a stepsona know-it-all
preschooler named William who has become her number one responsibility
every Wednesday afternoon. With William, Emilia encounters a number of
impossible pursuitssuch as the pursuit of cab drivers who speed away
when they see William's industrial-strength car seat and the pursuit of
lactose-free, strawberry-flavored, patisserie-quality cupcakes, despite
the fact that William's allergy is a figment of his over-protective
As much as Emilia wants to find common ground with William, she becomes
completely preoccupied when she loses her newborn daughter. After this,
the sight of any child brings her to tears, and Wednesdays with William
are almost impossible. When his unceasing questions turn to the baby's
death, Emilia is at a total loss. Doesn't anyone understand that
self-pity is a full-time job? Ironically, it is only through her
blundering attempts to bond with William that she finally heals herself
and learns what family really means.
How should the reader side? How much sympathy should we have for Emilia? How much hurt is it acceptable for her to inflict in her pain, and on who? ... At the end of this heartfelt and well-paced novel nothing tangible has changed; Emilia still misses Isabel, still finds William's questions trying, still finds it a challenge to cope with the ex-wife; but she has survived and grown through her grief, having been transformed into someone who can appreciate the "accidental beauty" of life in both the good and bad moments. (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).
The New York Magazine - Emily Nussbaum
The result might've been mere fluff like The Nanny Diaries. Instead, Waldman achieves something a bit better: a smart and finally affecting portrayal of a woman working her way out of her own grandiose self-image into something like real love.
The Washington Post - Kim Edwards
Emilia's voice is terrific -- sharp, witty, funny, resilient, sarcastic, passionate and very angry. She derides support groups, pushes away friends, tries the nearly unbelievable patience of all who love her until, at a crucial moment, Jack finally says, "It's not a get-out-of-jail-free card, Emilia. Isabel's death doesn't entitle you to do and say whatever the hell you want, to hurt whomever you want."
The San Francisco Chronicle - Lynn Andriani
We watch her change from an immature, self-centered recluse whose relationship with her husband almost combusts to a loving wife and stepmother who finally learns to recognize grace, finding it when "something is more beautiful than we deserve, more elegant and lovely than it should be." And no matter Emilia's state (furious, resentful, at peace or otherwise), she's always sharp, wickedly funny, opinionated and cheerfully bitter, lending depth and energy to this wise, entertaining book.
Library Journal - Robin Nesbitt
...an entertaining standalone novel that looks at how a stepmother copes with this role while trying to become a mother herself. For most public libraries.
The London Times - Jane Shilling
If Love and Other Impossible Pursuits had started life as a film, it would have been a straightforward, uplifting account of an upper-middle-class family of essentially well-meaning people struggling to come to terms with the ugly imperfection of family break-up. As writing, however, it is considerably darker than its racy, pacy style suggests.
The Independent (UK) - Marianne Brace
For all its slickness, this novel has poignant moments - Emilia lactating at her baby's funeral; William, caught in the crossfire of an adult row, standing "hands balled up in fists and pressed into his cheeks". Waldman conveys Emilia's crippling grief and guilt powerfully. How can Emilia forgive other children for living while her own daughter is "nothing but a frozen memory, stiff and cold, her tongue curled out of the corner of her mouth, her breath forever stilled in her chest"? After all, she's a mother.
Sherman Alexie, author of Ten Little Indians
I read this book in one sitting while lying on my favorite couch.
And I'll read it again on a future road trip. And I'll read it for a
third time in the bathtub. Ayelet Waldman is that good.
Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon
This novel is, to quote a favorite song, 'sly, slick and wicked wicked
wicked child.' It's wickedly funny in the minute details of contemporary
life and love and parenting, but it's sly the way Waldman makes the
reader laugh at the spectacle of a mother trying to manufacture love for
one child, while making the reader tearful about the loss of another
child. In the end, this novel conjures up the magical balance of both.
Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina
Ayelet Waldman . . . looks past headlines and into the heart. What she finds there is hope for us all.
Diane Johnson, author of Le Divorce
I thought the heroine was a great accomplishment .... And William is a triumph.
Julie Orringer, author of How To Breathe Underwater Love and Other Impossible Pursuits
is the most riveting and sharply
rendered novel I've read in years. Ayelet Waldman writes the language of
grief with virtuosic fluency. Piercing, provocative, and unflinchingly
honest, she makes us rapt participants in her protagonist's struggle
with the most painful complications of marriage and motherhood. Once you
begin this book, there will be no putting it down. Once you've finished,
you will never forget it.
Andrew Sean Greer, author of The Confessions of Max Tivoli
A beautiful novel. If you are not moved to tears, then your heart is carved from wood.
Recent Reader Reviews
Rated of 5
by Maureen Great Book This was a very good book. A real page turner. I enjoyed the devleopment of the relationship between Emilia and William. I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys books that delve into relationships. The stepmother/stepchild was... Read More
Once a year for the last five years, former public defender Ayelet Waldman has
turned out a volume in her Mommy Track mystery series, starring Juliet
Applebaum, ex-public defender and "self-employed mother". In mystery
genre terms the Mommy Track books are best described as 'cozies'
(mysteries with low body counts, with the murders usually committed off stage
- or at least not graphically described!).
However, in 2003 she broke the mold and published Daughter's Keeper, a politically charged novel
about a woman's battle with the American legal system's inflexible drug laws; and returned in 2006 with Love and Other Impossible Pursuits. In
parallel to her books she's also an outspoken blogger and has written a
number of essays, many of them relatively controversial and hard-hitting (it's
through these in chronological order to see how her voice as a writer has
developed over time).
Then, in March 2005 she found herself in the middle of a maelstrom
A stunning, thought-provoking crime novel of chilling moral complexity. A gripping, haunting exploration of love and our need for it, of the damage done when we go long without it, and the deeds we might be driven to in its name.
A stunning, kaleidoscopic evocation of a family in crisis, written with delicacy and masterful care - a rich and gorgeously layered tale of a family breaking apart and coming back together again.
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