We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman | Book Review

“Everywhere, behind closed doors, people are dying, and people are grieving them. It’s the most basic fact about human life—tied with birth, I guess—but it’s so startling too. Everyone dies, and yet it’s unendurable. There is so much love inside of us. How do we become worthy of it? And, then, where does it go? A worldwide crescendo of grief, sustained day after day, and only one tiny note of it is mine.”

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.

1. We All Want Impossible Things

How does one learn to live in the day to day when you know a loved one is dying and there is nothing you can do but help make their last days emotionally less painful.

Edi’s doctors at the New York hospital ask that her family move her to a hospice for palliative care. Edi’s seven-year-old son, Dash, is unable to cope with his mother’s impending death and her husband, Jude, cannot be at two places at the same time. So, as the only person who knows her best, Ash rearranges her entire life around Edi’s care and moves her to a hospice close to her in Massachusetts.

The book starts with focus on Ashley and her bond with Edi. After settling Edi at the Hospice, they spends the days reminiscing about their friendship. Even with the noticeable decline in Edi’s cognitive functions, there are moments when she is lucid and can remember the tiniest details of a decades old incident. 

Ash has enough problems of her own but she finds unconditional support in her daughters, Belle and Jules, and even her ex-husband, Honey, who pull out the stops to be present for Edi. 

We All Want Impossible Things is about enduring friendships amidst dealing with illness, of friends who become family, and to go looking for a rainbow every day. The subject, as painful as it is, is treated with utmost respect for the characters and the ordeal each of them experiences. And yet I did not feel as emotionally invested in their stories as I wanted to.

The author balances the heavy with bright humour that comes naturally as part of both Edi and Ash’s personalities. There are funny moments but I couldn’t see myself laughing out loud with them; felt rather like an outsider trying to look in but made to feel excluded.

I always find it hard to read books about illness and loss, which probably stems from my personal experiences but that cannot be a reason to find fault in the author’s writing. Perhaps it just didn’t resonate with me.

We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman. This edition due to be published on 12th January 2023 by Transworld Publishers, an imprint of Penguin Random House UK. This ARC courtesy of NetGalley and Transworld Publishers.

Book 1 of 2023.

Aquamarine Flavours Rating: 🌟🌟🌟.

Available on Amazon*.

About Photo: Edi claims Sicilian lemon polenta pound cake is the best cake she has ever eaten and could never find it again after that first time in the mid-1990s.
I found this incredibly cute papercraft template of a pie slice by Lia Griffith and couldn’t resist using it here. The paper I’ve used is 220gsm cardstock in yellow, with a darker colour for the outer crust, and white for the dollop of cream on top.
1. We All Want Impossible Thingsb
About the Author: Catherine Newman is the author of the memoirs Catastrophic Happiness and Waiting for Birdyand the bestselling children’s book How to be a PersonShe writes the etiquette column for Real Simple magazine, and is a regular contributor to the New York Times; O, The Oprah Magazine; Parents magazine; and many other publications.
She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts, with her family.
You can connect with her on Instagram and Twitter.
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*Disclosure: This post contains an affiliate link which means, at no additional cost to you, I will earn a small commission if you click through and make a purchase.


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