EXCERPT: Plates are filled and passed, caps popped off of beer and prosecco bottles. We are having a bona fide party! Edi’s got a glass of bubbly and a chocolate pudding cup from the kitchen. We drag in a couple of extra chairs from the conference room. Farrah Fawcett joins us. Jude gets Nina Simone to pour out of somebody’s speaker. Belle’s got a band-aid on her head and maybe a concussion, but still both girls gleam almost obscenely: shiny pink cheeks; shiny, dark hair – Jules’s long and curly, Belle’s short and bristly – and huge smiles. I catch Honey’s eye: We made these people . Jude is telling Jules the cake story, and Jules is laughing her sleigh-bells laugh. Belle is asking Jonah something about his work, and I hear her say, ‘I know it’s not actually a hedgehog fund.’ Alice is bent over Edi, talking and laughing quietly, tears glinting like diamonds in her long eyelashes. Nina Simone is feeling good. I’m standing with a can of deliciously bitter beer in my hand, beaming and beaming – my jaw actually aches from smiling so much. I have never been so sad and happy in my entire life. The whole time Edi’s been here, I’ve thought: Live like you’re dying? Who would do that? Dying sucks. Now I see it, though. I do want to live like this!
ABOUT ‘WE ALL WANT IMPOSSIBLE THINGS’: Who knows you better than your best friend? Who knows your secrets, your fears, your desires, your strange imperfect self? Edi and Ash have been best friends for over forty years. Since childhood they have seen each other through life’s milestones: stealing vodka from their parents, the Madonna phase, REM concerts, unexpected wakes, marriages, infertility, children. As Ash notes, ‘Edi’s memory is like the back-up hard drive for mine.’
So when Edi is diagnosed with terminal cancer, Ash’s world reshapes around the rhythms of Edi’s care, from chipped ice and watermelon cubes to music therapy; from snack smuggling to impromptu excursions into the frozen winter night. Because life is about squeezing the joy out of every moment, about building a powerhouse of memories, about learning when to hold on, and when to let go.
MY THOUGHTS: Every star in the sky for this beautiful book.
Reading We All Want Impossible Things, I cried and laughed and cried and laughed some more, often at the same time. Catherine Newman has written rawly and honestly about love and grief, the messiness of the emotional rollercoaster of caring for, and about, the dying.
But, this is a story that is just as much about living as it is about dying. It is a story of sadness and of hope; it is full of life and laughter, and tears and grief. I loved the way Edi’s family and friends farewelled her, how they all supported and cared for one another. I wanted to be part of this messy and emotional group, to be one of them.
Intertwined with the story of Ash caring for Edi in her final weeks is the story of Ash’s messy life. This doesn’t detract at all from the main thread; they blend and complement each other.
I did have some initial difficulty in keeping the characters straight in my mind: Jude, Jules, Jonah; but this didn’t last long. Ash is a character who grew on me. I didn’t like her much at first, but that changed as the book progressed, and now I would love to have her as a friend.
I love this book enough to buy a hard copy. It’s going on my ‘forever’ shelf: the books I will never be parted from.
This is Catherine Newman’s debut adult novel.
My favourite quote: . . . aren’t you the person who eavesdropped on your mum and her Dublin cousin gossiping about someone’s hysterectomy and thought for years that The Troubles in Ireland were gynecological?’
I: @catherinenewman @randomhouse @doubledayukbooks
T: @CatheriNewman @doubledaybooks
#fivestarread #contemporaryfiction #deathanddying #friendship #sliceoflife
THE AUTHOR: Hi! I should probably tell you about myself as a writer, even if you were here to find out some other kind of thing! I write (wrote?) the cooking and lifestyle blog Ben & Birdy. I’m not sure why I wrote “lifestyle.” Maybe I mean the kind of lifestyle where you sew your hand to a maple leaf garland while drinking pinot noir.
I have written the grown-up parenting memoirs Catastrophic Happiness (Little, Brown) and Waiting for Birdy (Penguin). I have also written the middle-grade novel One Mixed-Up Night (Random House), Stitch Camp, which is a kids’ craft book I co-wrote with my friend Nicole, and the award-winning bestselling skill-building books for kids How to Be a Person and What Can I Say? (both from Storey). My first adult novel, We All Want Impossible Things, is out now.
I have also written about kids, parents, teenagers, food, cooking, love, loss, gender, eating, death, sex, politics, books, babies, snakes, foraging, relationships, crafts, holidays, travel, and fortune telling for lots of magazines, newspapers, and online publications, including the New York Times, O the Oprah Magazine, The Boston Globe, Romper, Self, The Huffington Post, FamilyFun, Parents, and Full Grown People. I am a regular contributor to the Cup of Jo website.
I was, until recently, the etiquette columnist at Real Simple for ten years, even though yes, I swear a lot and don’t know what an oyster fork is. I edit the James-Beard-Award-winning nonprofit kids’ cooking magazine ChopChop.
My work has been in lots of books and anthologies, including On Being 40, the fabulous Unbored series, The Bitch in the House, Oprah’s Little Book of Happiness, and the Full Grown People collections.
I’ve also done plenty of consulting, public radio commentaries, readings, talks, workshops, and TV appearances.
Two random things: I have a PhD, and I’m the secretary of Creative Writing at Amherst College. (catherinenewmanwriter.com)
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Random House UK, Transworld Publishers, Doubleday via Netgalley for providing a digital ARC of We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my Goodreads.com profile page or the about page on sandysbookaday.wordpress.com
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