We All Want Impossible Things

Catherine Newman (Catastrophic Happiness; Waiting for Birdy) blends sage wisdom and earnest good humor in her columns and memoirs, balancing difficult realities with the inherent joy and hilarity of life. In We All Want Impossible Things, her first novel, she brings something similar, offering readers a story that looks squarely at a terrible loss and still sees the beauty.

It's hard to recommend a novel about helping your best friend die. But Newman makes it more than possible, because readers will fall in love with Ash and Edi and their irrepressible friendship, even as Edi suffers and fades--and then is gone. Of course, life doesn't stop because someone is dying, so Ash is also contending with parenting almost-adult children; the end of her long, mostly good marriage; and her shifting sense of self in the midst of so much turmoil. These other elements are important (though some might strain credulity) and often very funny, but it is the daily experience of loving another person, despite knowing they will die, that makes this novel shine.

After Edi dies, Ash reflects: "Here we are, hurling ourselves headlong into love like lemmings off a cliff into a churning sea of grief. We risk every last thing for our heart's expansion, even when that expanded heart threatens to suffocate us and then burst." Newman's great gift is in telling stories that are true and universal and bitter and tender all at once, and We All Want Impossible Things is exactly that. --Sara Beth West, freelance reviewer and librarian

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