three-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
22-May-June-2006
user_rating: 
0

A-LoveAndOtherImpossiblePursuitsEmilia played the game she wasn’t supposed to: she fell in love with Jack, whisked him away from his wife, and married him herself. But two years later, in a posh home on the Upper West Side, things are far from perfect. Their infant daughter died of SIDS, and wracked by guilt, Emilia is an emotional wreck. To make matters worse, she can barely muster up any love for Jack’s son from his previous marriage. A precocious preschooler, William only serves as a constant reminder of Emilia’s poor mothering abilities. When Jack’s cold ex-wife (an obstetrician, of all things) reenters, Emilia starts to reconsider her life.
Doubleday. 340 pages. $23.95. ISBN: 0385515308

NY Times Book Review 4 of 5 Stars
"Love and Other Impossible Pursuits is clearly out to irritate some Mommy groups. It may also be the first chick-lit novel (it features, after all, a young career woman who falls in love with her boss, shops, and worries about her relationships) that in addition to being a romantic, shocking, and sometimes painful page-turner does the unthinkable: it actually says something new and interesting about women, families, and love." Chelsea Cain

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"This is the story of a woman struggling through her grief, yes, but it’s also the story of a woman forced by loss to re-evaluate her past and her choices, even her desires. … The novel is beautifully paced and unfolds seamlessly, but as it builds, there’s a disconcerting sense that Emilia is not telling the whole story—and she isn’t." Kim Edwards

Minneapolis Star Tribune 3 of 5 Stars
"She has a nice grasp of both the zeitgeist (lots of savvy if occasionally forced pop-culture references) and the archetype; pays loving and careful attention to her setting … creates memorable characters, and maintains a brisk and effortless pace. The problems with Love and Other Impossible Pursuits are the same problems that dog so much contemporary fiction of the sort that gets routinely foisted on book clubs: Where is the heart of this novel?" Brad Zellar

Seattle Times 3 of 5 Stars
"Despite a predictable plot and a heroine who is not always likable, Waldman manages to offer a quick and graceful read." Bharti Kirchner

Newsday 0.5 of 5 Stars
"The book is about Emilia’s redemption—or would be, if Waldman didn’t wind up rationalizing her behavior, so that by the end, she really has nothing to be sorry about. … The big epiphany, when Emilia finally confronts her own actions, rings hollow." Ariella Budick

Critical Summary

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.

Also by the Author

The Mommy Track Mysteries: Waldman is cornering the young professional mom market. Her crime series centers on Juliet Applebaum, a former public defender in Los Angeles, now a stay-at-home mother. The series starts with Nursery Crimes (2000), in which a prestigious preschool’s founder is the killer, and improves with The Big Nap (2001).