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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman

Newman offers a heartbreaking and heartwarming tribute to friendship that centers around witty dialogue, unconventional arrangements, coping with an excruciating, looming end, and above all else, love.

Every year, ever since the girls were born, I have blown out the candles on my birthday cake and wished for just this. Everything I have already. No loss. I can't spare anybody is what I always think. But then, people must be spared. That is the whole premise of this life, of this time we have with each other.

In Catherine Newman's novel We All Want Impossible Things, Edith and Ashley have been best friends for more than four decades. They've shared the good, bad, and ugly: endless painfully mundane or thrilling moments; love and loss; disappointment and victory; and everything in between.

But now the unthinkable is happening: Edi is dying from ovarian cancer and living out her days in a hospice near Ash. Ash is struggling with her own imperfections as a mother, wife, and friend as she tries to figure out how to say goodbye to her longest, best friend in the world, the person who makes Ash who she is.

Newman's lets the reader into Edi and Ash's rabbit warren of private jokes and moments and memories, and she made me feel a part of it all. The dialogue is exceptional in how real it feels--funny, heartbreaking, and sometimes realistically meandering and without resolution.

Ash's immediate family is loving and accepting above all else. The shape of her household is unconventional--she is estranged from her lovely, sometimes flaky, big-hearted husband, yet he is a constant part of daily life and of The Edi Situation as well.

For some reason I didn't completely believe in Ash's frequent sexcapades with various people she meets, yet I recognize that people of course have individual reactions to such a state of grief and might be inspired to cope in varied ways. And at any rate, I loved the low-key thread of the premise that a strong middle-aged woman can find moments of sexual satisfaction with a range of others as often as she wishes, matter-of-factly, and that in doing so she gains human connections that are fleeting, without boundaries, and comforting in a time of need.

I find myself drawn to books that explore mortality. We All Want Impossible Things is heartbreaking and wonderfully strange, funny and full of love, and a tribute to deeply loving friendships and families. I loved this.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

I fell in love years ago with Newman's blog about her life, family and kids, Ben and Birdy, and I loved Newman's nonfiction book about repeat motherhood, Waiting for Birdy.

We also own How to Be a Person: 65 Hugely Useful, Super-Important Skills to Learn Before You're Grown Up.


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