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Love and Other Impossible Pursuits Hardcover – January 24, 2006

3.6 out of 5 stars 104 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

How a five-year-old manages to make the adults in his life hew to the love he holds for them is the sweet treat in this honest, brutal, bitterly funny slice of life. When Emelia's day-old daughter, Isabel, succumbs to SIDS, her own life stalls. She can't work; she can't sleep; Central Park, once her personal secret garden, now is a minefield of happy mother-child dyads. Since Isabel's death, husband Jack's only solace for the guilt of breaking up his sexless marriage with Carolyn for Emelia's (now-absent) passion and love is joint custody of William, now five. What Emelia cannot bear most are Wednesdays, when she must cross the park to collect William at the 92nd Street Y preschool and take another shot at stepmotherhood. Carolyn, William's furious mother and a renowned Upper East Side OB/GYN, lives to nab Emelia for mistakes in handling him. Carolyn's indicting phone calls raise the already sky-high tension in Jack and Emelia's home, but they don't compare with Carolyn's announcement that, at age 42, she is pregnant. The news pushes Emelia to confess to Jack two things she shouldn't. William is charmingly realized, and Waldman (Daughter's Keeper) has upper bourgeois New York down cold. The result is a terrific adult story. (Feb. 21)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

A few critics drew parallels between Emilia's life and the author's own; after all, Waldman achieved some sort of fame last year after she publicly announced that she loved her husband, novelist Michael Chabon, more than her four children. Alter-ego or not, Emilia and her evolving relationship with William take center stage here. But while some critics saw Emilia as narcissistic and wallowing in self-pity, others viewed her as a witty, resilient woman honest with her foibles. Critics similarly split over the characterization of William. A predictable plot, some stilted writing, and a tidy ending caused some displeasure, but the general consensus was that Waldman's heartfelt novel says something new about the expectations of women—and of oneself.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; First Edition edition (January 24, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385515308
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385515306
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.1 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,038,383 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you read the reviews here, it is pretty easy to figure out who truly appreciates Ayelet Waldman's writing and who has a vendetta against her (the reasons are elaborated below). I am updating this review since the book is now the basis of a movie "The Other Woman" starring the talented actress Natalie Portman (as of this writing she has gotten buzz for her role in "The Black Swan" and promises to bring equal passion to "The Other Woman")

I discovered one of Waldman's mystery books years ago, one set in suburbia with a heroine who managed to set things right in spite of dealing with all the usual distractions of parenting, from car pools to household disasters. I liked the book a great deal as well as the author's writing. I knew very little about the author but I did receive a nice letter from her after I wrote a glowing review of her mysteries.

At the time, I had no idea Waldman was about to be at the center of a controversy, especially after she spilled her guts on her website, "Bad Mommy", writing about suicidal feelings, abortions and other issues which made some parents attack her viciously. You may still be able to see some of her posts at that site, although I believe she is about to end that blog and move on to writing for Salon, the online magazine. At this point in time, she may have moved on to other pursuits.

Controversy aside, I DID like this new book (Love and Other Impossible Pursuits). Many readers may not find the idea of a mistress who steals another woman's husband to be to their liking but it is to Waldman's credit that she doesn't turn away from the messier aspects of life or from presenting characters who are less than noble. Parenthood also is seen as both challenging and, at times, absolutely horrendous. I can relate to that.
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Format: Paperback
As a guy unaware of Ayelet Waldman's background, I was intrigued enough by the title, LOVE AND OTHER IMPOSSIBLE PURSUITS, to buy it. I assumed it would be about someone who really wants to love but can't figure out how it's done or whether love exists. But that's not what this story is about. It's about a cold, quick witted mother, Emilia, who's got issues long as a hopeful kid's Christmas list: a dead infant daughter, an apparent know-it-all five year old stepson; problems with men (her husband and her dad); problems with women (her mom, all moms with infants, her husband's first wife). Kavetch she doesn't. She tries to keep going, but she navigates as poorly through NYC (could anyone be more hopeless at hailing a cab in the rain?) as she does through relationships--all the while refusing to condesend to using any sort of guide (a map, a therapist).

I enjoyed the evolution of her relationship with the smartest five year old in the world, feeling bad for all parties as they stumbled about. And I kept turning the pages until Emilia got to a really bad place that made her truly human but isolated. I didn't know how Waldman was going to convincingly bring this story to a conclusion, but hats off to her--she movingly pulled off the magic.

Along the way, I hope I've become more compassionate to couples who have lost infants, step-families and really smart five year olds. Next time I see fiction by Ayelet Waldman, I'll pick it. I imagine that like her heroine, she's tough, smart, boldly honest but unlike her heroine, she knows her way around human hearts.
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Format: Hardcover
From the moment Emilia Greenleaf, a brand-new associate at a high-powered New York City law firm, first set eyes on Jack Woolf, she knew he was her bashert --- her soulmate. Never mind that Jack was married with a small son; Emilia knew that his presence was magic and that they were destined to be together. Sure enough, Emilia eventually gets her way: Jack falls in love with her and the two begin a torrid affair that culminates in Jack's divorce, his remarriage to Emilia, and the birth of their daughter Isabel.

It's all very romantic, right? Maybe not. Emilia's dreamy notions of soulmates and destiny constantly run up against the reality of Jack's intellectually gifted but fragile son William and Jack's brittle, controlling ex-wife. Only when newborn Isabel dies of SIDS does Emilia finally need to confront her expectations for marriage, parenthood and family life. Wallowing in her own grief, Emilia is blind to the suffering of those around her, especially to the suffering she herself inflicts. Her healing process is slow, but before Emilia's journey ends, she'll realize that real love is as much about discipline as it is about destiny, and that magic can be found in the most unexpected places.

Emilia is a sometimes unlikable narrator, self-absorbed, thoughtless, perfectly willing to admit that she can't stand her precocious stepson. She holds grudges against the adults who made her own childhood so difficult, but refuses to admit the role she plays in William's own damaged sense of self and family. Nevertheless, Emilia does have flashes of insight, and she gives voice to troubling thoughts that many mothers have guiltily felt, if not admitted, at some point in their lives.
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