Summary and book reviews of The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas

The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano

by Donna Freitas

The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas X
The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas
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  • Published:
    Apr 2021, 384 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl
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Book Summary

A deeply moving novel about a woman who thought she never wanted to be a mother--and the many ways that life can surprise us.

In every woman there are many stories...

Rose Napolitano is fighting with her husband, Luke, about prenatal vitamins. She promised she'd take them, but didn't. He promised before they got married that he'd never want children, but now he's changed his mind. Their marriage has come to rest on this one question: Can Rose find it in herself to become a mother? Rose is a successful professor and academic. She's never wanted to have a child. The fight ends, and with it their marriage.

But then, Rose has a fight with Luke about the vitamins--again. This time the fight goes slightly differently, and so does Rose's future as she grapples with whether she can indeed give up the one thing she thought she knew about herself. Can she reimagine her life in a completely new way? That reimagining plays out again and again in each of Rose's nine lives, just as it does for each of us as we grow into adulthood. What are the consequences of our biggest choices? How would life change if we let go of our preconceived ideas of ourselves and became someone completely new? Rose Napolitano's experience of choosing and then choosing again shows us in an utterly compelling way what it means, literally, to reinvent a life and, sometimes, become a different kind of woman than we ever imagined.

A stunning novel about love, loss, betrayal, divorce, death, a woman's career and her identity, The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano is about finding one's way into a future that wasn't the future one planned, and the ways that fate intercedes when we least expect it.

MARCH 2, 2008

Rose, Life 3

She is beautiful.

I am awed by her perfection. The heady scent of her skin. "Addie," I sigh. "Adelaide," I try again, a faint whisper in the sterile air. "Adelaide Luz."

I raise her little head to my nose and inhale, long and needy, ignoring the sharp pain in my abdomen. I smile as I admire the soft fuzz of her hair.

How I resisted having this little being in my arms! Before the pregnancy and the birth, I would rage about the pressure to have a child— to Luke, to Mom, to Jill, to whoever would listen. The stranger next to me on the subway, the unsuspecting man on the sidewalk. I was just. So. Angry.

But now?

The snow falls in wet clumps against the windowpanes of the hospital room, everything around me shades of gray in dim light. I inch to the left, shift into a better position. The temperature drops and the snow turns papery, thick and dry like paste. She sleeps.

My eyes are hers.

"How could I not have wanted you?" I whisper into her tiny, curling ear...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano takes up the question of whether to have children—with Rose insisting that it should be a question, even though people assume it is a given for women. How does this assumption affect a woman's identity? Have you always assumed that you would have children?
  2. Rose and Luke's marriage hinges on a fight that repeats about something relatively small— vitamins. Why do you think the author chose a fight like this one to be the turning point in this marriage for everything that happens next? Have you ever had a fight like this with a partner?
  3. Rose and Luke agreed before they got married to not have children. Is it unfair to Rose that Luke changed his mind? Or is it understandable—and forgivable&#...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

In addition to being a reflection on the complexities of relationships, Freitas's novel is an elegant exploration of what might be called fate. While exploring Rose's attitudes toward her potential future(s) as a mother, The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano examines her relationship with her own mother and the identities of women in general. Rose's role as a daughter comes to affect the way she conceives of her other identities, such as her professional role as a sociologist—an occupation Freitas, whose background is in sociology and religious studies, knows something about. Rose's personal life inspires and informs her research, and her academic knowledge affects how she understands and analyzes the patterns of her life and those of women like her...continued

Full Review Members Only (509 words).

(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Media Reviews

Woman's Day
Many of us have had that moment where we wondered what might happen if we took a different path. Rose is adamant that she doesn't want to be a mother, but then she caves to save her relationship. But what if she makes a different choice? In this inventive novel about love, loss, identity, and compromise, we get to find out.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Freitas's prose is engaging and precise, and her what-if format proves ideal for elegantly unpacking the tensions of the plot. She balances tightly written scenes of confrontation with Rose's poignant reflections on how much she can compromise without losing herself completely. This isn't one to miss.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Reminiscent of Kate Atkinson's Life After Life or the movie Sliding Doors, Freitas' novel explores nine (but certainly not all) possible outcomes when a woman who has never wanted children marries a man who gradually decides he does….Following the maze of numbered takes becomes an addictive game, highly literate escapism, like watching The Queen's Gambit…Highly readable and provocative

Booklist (starred review)
Fans of Kate Atkinson's Life after Life, Liane Moriarty's What Alice Forgot, and the film Sliding Doors will find themselves happily lost in this charming, heartfelt, thought-provoking novel.

Author Blurb Claire Lombardo, New York Times bestselling author of The Most Fun We Ever Had
Ambitious, compelling, and provocative, The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano delves deep into love, motherhood, and the complicated dance that is navigating the world as a woman—its intricate structure kept me turning pages and the questions posed therein kept me awake at night.-

Author Blurb Linda Holmes, host of NPR's Pop Culture Happy Hour and New York Times bestselling author of Evvie Drake Starts Over
A structurally ambitious, deeply thoughtful and even-handed consideration of many of the most complex decisions women make about their families and futures—not to mention a generally wise meditation on the control we all do and don't have over our fates.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Books About Choosing (or Not Choosing) Motherhood

Over the past couple of decades, it's become more socially acceptable to talk and to write about the complexities of motherhood. It's also become less taboo to acknowledge—as Rose does in The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas—that motherhood is not the right choice for every woman. The following books articulate, in different ways, the ambivalence or unease many women feel toward the prospect of becoming mothers.

The Fifth Child cover The Fifth Child by Doris Lessing

This novel of Lessing's, first published in 1988 and set in the late 1960s, is a work of literary horror. Two conservative parents have created a haven of domestic bliss in opposition to the social unrest unfolding in the wider world. But their feelings of smug ...

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