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Love and Other Impossible Pursuits    by Ayelet Waldman order for
Love and Other Impossible Pursuits
by Ayelet Waldman
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

A grieving woman blames herself for the loss of her newborn to SIDS and tries, without great success, to get closer to her stepson. Sounds like a simple enough, feel good plot, but this novel is far from it. As the story opens, Emilia Greenleaf is locked in grief over her lost baby, Isabel, and treated tactfully and carefully by family and friends, except for her small, precocious stepson William, whom she is responsible for every Wednesday afternoon, but finds 'insufferable' ... 'William is five years old, and sometimes sounds like a very small sixty-two-year-old man.'

Writing from her protagonist's point of view, Ayelet Waldman wins the reader's sympathy for Emilia's perspective on events early in her story, but gradually widens that view for both protagonist and reader. Early in our acquaintance with her, Emilia admits to breaking up Jack's previous marriage, saying she 'was the atom bomb of desire' while Jack's pediatrician wife Carolyn and small son 'were Hiroshima and Nagasaki.' While she feels some guilt, she seems to have it well under control, and to have rationalized it as something that was inevitable, because Jack was her bashert - her soul mate.

We see the (few) ups and (many) downs of Emilia's developing relationship with, and growing understanding of William, and the rippling effects this has on all the others in their lives. They share a fascination for Central Park, something that Emilia learned from her own father (for whom she has had mixed feelings ever since he was unfaithful to her mother with a woman younger than herself). For Emilia, her father, and small William, the park lends to 'this city of steel and glass, marble and asphalt, brick and stone, 843 acres of grace.'

Through this intriguing, complex story, its heroine evolves to see herself and her motivations more clearly and honestly. She learns from her flawed father about love, and that 'you can't count on magic' to make a lasting relationship. But she is also taught by the proximity of a little boy that 'The gorgeousness of life comes in accidental beauty; it comes in inexplicable grace.' I enjoyed Love and Other Impossible Pursuits very much and highly recommend it to you.

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