Reviews of We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman

We All Want Impossible Things

A Novel

by Catherine Newman

We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman X
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Nov 2022, 224 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Callum McLaughlin
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About this Book

Book Summary

For lovers of Meg Wolitzer, Maria Semple, and Jenny Offill comes this raucous, poignant celebration of life, love, and friendship at its imperfect and radiant best.

Edith and Ashley have been best friends for over forty-two years. They've shared the mundane and the momentous together: trick or treating and binge drinking; Gilligan's Island reruns and REM concerts; hickeys and heartbreak; surprise Scottish wakes; marriages, infertility, and children. As Ash says, "Edi's memory is like the back-up hard drive for mine."

But now the unthinkable has happened. Edi is dying of ovarian cancer and spending her last days at a hospice near Ash, who stumbles into heartbreak surrounded by her daughters, ex(ish) husband, dear friends, a poorly chosen lover (or two), and a rotating cast of beautifully, fleetingly human hospice characters.

As the Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack blasts all day long from the room next door, Edi and Ash reminisce, hold on, and try to let go. Meanwhile, Ash struggles with being an imperfect friend, wife, and parent—with life, in other words, distilled to its heartbreaking, joyful, and comedic essence.

For anyone who's ever lost a friend or had one. Get ready to laugh through your tears.

This book is published by an imprint of HarperCollins. Members of the HC union have been on strike since mid-Nov, fighting for a living wage. More than 650 authors and literary agents have committed to not submitting books to the company until the strike is resolved. Recent news articles

Prologue



"Edi. Are you sleeping?"

I'm whispering, even though the point is to wake her up. Her eyelids look bruised, and her lips are pale and peeling, but still she's so gorgeous I could bite her face. Her dark hair is growing back in. "Wake up, my little chickadee," I whisper, but she doesn't stir. I look at Jude, her husband, who shrugs, runs an open palm over his handsome, exhausted face.

"Edichka," I say a little louder, Slavically. She opens her eyes, squinches them shut again, then snaps them back open, focuses on my face, and smiles. "Hey, sweetheart," she says. "What's up?"

I smile back. "Oh, nothing," I say. A lie! "Jude and I were just making some plans for you."

"Plans like banh mi from that good banh mi place?" she says. "I'm starving." She rubs her stomach over her johnny. "No. Not starving. Not even hungry, actually. I just want to taste something tasty, I guess." She tries to sit up a little and then remembers the remote, and the top of her bed rises with the mechanical ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Newman's humor feels natural and avoids an overly saccharine tone. It creates levity and allows space for the characters — Ashley in particular — to exist as three-dimensional and flawed in their well-meaning attempts to be there for Edi. And while the story and themes are well-worn, exploring ideas we've all seen before and hitting the narrative beats most readers will expect, the novel still feels deeply poignant. The blatantly inevitable outcome hangs over the readers as much as it does the characters; as Edi's condition deteriorates, we become reluctant to lose her and Ashley, just as they are to lose each other, which adds emotional weight to the narrative. This novel will hit home with anyone who has gone through the prolonged loss of a loved one...continued

Full Review Members Only (478 words).

(Reviewed by Callum McLaughlin).

Media Reviews

New York Times
Here is the thing about this book. It is excruciatingly heartbreaking, but I laughed out loud on almost every page. And I am not an easy laugher. Newman's voice is hilarious and warm; her characters feel like old friends ... . a winning novel.

Ploughshares
Compulsively readable and tenderly hilarious.

Romper
Affirming, entertaining, and unaccountably, wonderfully funny ... . [Newman] has a deep talent for the macabre humor and absurdity that it takes to describe the loss of someone you cannot bear to lose.

BookPage, starred review
We All Want Impossible Things is ostensibly a novel about death—but it pulses with life ... . full of moments both mundane and painful, hilarious and heartbreaking ... . The complications of love, parenting and saying goodbye all mingle together in rich detail.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Newman perfectly captures the beauty and burden of caring for someone in their final moments...A warm and remarkably funny book about death and caregiving that will make readers laugh through their tears.

Booklist
[Newman] brings Ash to life through a voice that is both hilarious and filled with crushing sadness, but the ultimate message is that of hope. A crossover readalike for fans of death memoirs such as those by Paul Kalanithi and Nora McInerny.

Publishers Weekly
Newman's moving adult debut explores a lifelong friendship between two women, one of whom is dying...[She] breathes ample life into this exquisite story of death and dying.

Author Blurb Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year
A novel set in a hospice has no right to be as hilarious, charming, and hopeful as We All Want Impossible Things. With Nora Ephron-style lightness, Catherine Newman has constructed a truly singular tale of love and friendship in the twenty-first century. I loved it.

Author Blurb Laura Zigman, author of Separation Anxiety
This is an absolute heartbreaker of a novel. Catherine Newman's book, through deceptively simple language and everyday moments experienced during a friend's hospice death — funny, sad, regretful, hopeful — is a celebration of life. For anyone who has prepared a hole in their heart for loss, We All Want Impossible Things is a reminder that, in time, that hollowed hallowed space is also there for when the light and love from grief pour back in.

Author Blurb Rachel Joyce, bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
I adored this book. There is so much love, funniness, honesty, courage, mess, bounce, and surprise in this book, and not a shred of it is mawkish. Loss might be the central theme–or rather the process of losing your dearest friend–but it is the most robust and glorious affirmation of life. Pure genius and an utter joy to read.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Novels Exploring Terminal Illness in Middle Age

Covers of novels exploring terminal illness in middle age In her novel We All Want Impossible Things, Catherine Newman chronicles the final days of Edi's life from the perspective of her lifelong friend, Ashley. Though terminal illness and death can be tragic at any age, facing these realities at the stage of life Edi is in comes with a particular set of challenges, such as knowing she will miss out on watching her child grow up, and having to accept not being able to live out all the time and life goals she thought she would.

Below is a selection of other novels that feature characters dealing with terminal illness in middle age, their lives cut short in their prime.

Never Change by Elizabeth Berg follows Myra, a 51-year-old home care nurse assigned to look after her former adolescent ...

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