Wednesday, November 6, 2013

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells

Title:  The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells
Author:  Andrew Sean Greer
Publication Information:  HarperCollins Publishers Inc. 2013. 304 pages.

Book Source:  I found this book while browsing the online catalog for my local library.

Favorite Quote:  "They say there are many worlds. All around our own, packed tight as the cells of your heart. Each with its own logic, its own physics, moons, and stars. ... And in those other worlds, the places you love are there, the people you love are there. Perhaps in one of them, all rights are wronged and life is as you wish it. So what if you found the door? And what if you had the key? Because everyone knows this:  That the impossible happens once to each of us."

The time is 1985. Greta Wells's twin brother has just died, and her long-time partner Nathan has just left her. She goes for therapy and agrees to undergo electroconvulsive (a.k.a. electroshock) therapy as a means of helping her overcome her sadness and emerge back into her life. The therapy sends her time-travelling.

We meet Greta in 1985, in 1918, and in 1941. Each time period presents an image of the life Greta lives, the choices she makes, and the joys and sorrows that come along with it. Along with Greta's live, the book describes major themes in the time period - war, disease, loss.

In each life, Greta reaches a point of receiving electroconvulsive therapy. With each procedure, the three Greta's of the three time periods switch places. The story follows the 1985 Greta, but tells of how each influences and changes the lives in the other time periods based on their wants and their regrets.

The description sounds a little confusing, but the story truly is not. For, as Greta thinks, "For is my story so unusual? To wake each morning as if things had gone differently - the dead come back, the lost returned, the beloved in our arms - is it any more magic that the ordinary madness of hope?"

To me, the book addresses the question "if you had your live to live over, what would you do differently?" and the idea that "wherever you go, there you are - your emotions and thoughts go with you no matter how far you travel." Without a spoiler, I will say that I enjoyed the fact that this book did not end up where I expected. The key to this book is to suspend disbelief and just go along for the enjoyable ride. 

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