Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells (Andrew Sean Greer)


My friend Teri and I trade novels back and forth.  She's a bookie like me and we share a similar taste in stories.  She gives them to me with notes that say things like "I need this one back" or "pass it on".

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells (2013) by Andrew Sean Greer is one she wants back and I think its because she wants to reread it!  It's confusing and while I enjoyed Greer's writing I don't think rereading is going to help me.

Told in alternating chapters the story starts in 1985 and transporting us back to 1941 and 1918.  In 1985 Greta suffers from depression after her twin brother Felix's death, and her lover Nathan leaves her for another woman. She tries a radical treatment under the supervision of her doctor that sends her back in time and she experiences her life from that angle.  In the other two lives her brother Felix is still alive but soon to marry or married to the wrong person and Nathan is there also.  It is very interesting to see what occurs in the alternating years with each year having a glimpse into aids, WWII, and the flu epidemic.  Greta thinks this is a way for her to be able to fix things, help her brother be comfortable in his sexuality mostly, and eventually she realizes that while she is working one angle there are 2 other Gretas making other plans.  Because each is working on their own ideas every once in awhile they get stuck in a time period and it isn't until she realizes ultimately she can't make changes no matter how she attempts to bend the rules.  Life has its own plan.

While I don't want to go through psycho-therapy I would love the chance to wake up in another time period to experience what life has to offer.  How interesting to see the same friends and lovers just as they say we do in past lives.  Trippy.  

I enjoyed reading this review in the NYT by David Leavitt explaining the in's and out's of Greta's time travel psycho-therapy.  I've heard Greer's book The Confessions of Max Tivoli also looks at time from an interesting perspective as Max ages backwards.  I would love to give it a try.

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