BookBrowse Reviews The Impossible Us by Sarah Lotz

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The Impossible Us

by Sarah Lotz

The Impossible Us by Sarah Lotz X
The Impossible Us by Sarah Lotz
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  • Paperback:
    Mar 2022, 496 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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About this Book



Sarah Lotz's The Impossible Us takes the idea of star-crossed lovers to a whole new level, as two people fall in love across parallel realities.

Sarah Lotz's The Impossible Us starts as a digital meet-cute. Frustrated ghostwriter Nicolas (Nick) Belcher fires off an expletive-laden email to a client, a rich gentleman who has failed to pay Nick for the significant work he did to rewrite his suspense novel. Nick mistypes the destination address, however, and instead the email lands in the inbox of Rebecca (Bee) Davies. Bee, a one-time fashion designer who has a small but successful business upcycling wedding dresses from failed marriages, strikes up an email exchange with Nick, one that alternates between silly flirtations and, gradually, more meaningful exchanges.

But there are some red flags in their correspondence — and not just the fact that Nick is still technically married even though the marriage has clearly run its course. How has Nick never heard of the dating app Tinder? And how has Bee never heard of the super-successful Jason Frey action movie franchise? These oddities are brushed off or simply ignored, but things come to a head when Bee and Nick build up the courage to actually meet, at London's Euston station. Each of them is there — but they can't see one another. After much handwringing and speculation, Nick and Bee land on an explanation that feels far-fetched but might be the only one that makes sense: They are living in alternate realities.

Bee lives in what appears to be "our" world circa 2019, a world in which Donald Trump is president and climate change denial runs rampant. In Nick's reality, however, the world already reached the emissions goals Bee's world has set for 2040 — in 2010. Bee and Nick's predicament is frustrating in the extreme, especially as they privately start to admit that they're falling for one another, but it also opens up intriguing possibilities. Bee decides to look up Nicolas Belcher in her world and discovers a novelist who is far more successful than "her" Nick. Nick looks up Bee Davies in his world and discovers a woman who has made drastically different choices than "his" Bee. What they choose to do with their new knowledge — especially when Nick encounters a secret group called the Berenstain Society that specializes in the study of parallel worlds (see Beyond the Book) — sets off a series of events that might carry repercussions across dimensions.

The Impossible Us weighs in at well over 500 pages, but the narrative really flies by, in part because a significant portion is composed of Bee and Nick's email exchanges, which are pithy and frequently very funny. The remainder unfolds in short chapters alternating between the two characters' perspectives. Lotz, whose previous novels were more in the vein of the thriller and horror genres, excels here at developing a plausible love story, and at exploring the more speculative elements of the plot without getting bogged down in explanations. And even though Nick and Bee's romance is, for the most part, lighthearted (despite the quantum obstacles they face), Lotz also incorporates some more serious elements, including infertility, infidelity, emotional abuse and attempted suicide. Nick and Bee's relationship ultimately opens not only them, but several of their closest friends, to new visions of what's possible, having glimpsed the accomplishments of people living in other realities. And their story is sure to open readers' hearts and minds to imagining a world, or worlds, of infinite possibilities, too.

Reviewed by Norah Piehl

This review first ran in the April 6, 2022 issue of BookBrowse Recommends.

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Beyond the Book:
  The Mandela Effect


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