The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells
By: Andrew Sean Greer
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
1985. After the death of her beloved twin brother, Felix, and the break up with her long-time lover, Nathan, Greta Wells embarks on a radical psychiatric treatment to alleviate her suffocating depression. But the treatment has unexpected effects, and Greta finds herself transported to the lives she might have had if she’d been born in a different era.
During the course of her treatment, Greta cycles between her own time and her alternate lives in 1918, as a bohemian adulteress, and 1941, as a devoted mother and wife. Separated by time and social mores, Greta’s three lives are achingly similar, fraught with familiar tensions and difficult choices. Each reality has its own losses, its own rewards, and each extracts a different price. And the modern Greta learns that her alternate selves are unpredictable, driven by their own desires and needs.
As her final treatment looms, questions arise. What will happen once each Greta learns how to stay in one of the other worlds? Who will choose to remain in which life?
When the book first came out, I remember pondering and wondering whether or not to pick it up. I decided in the end to hold on it. After hearing that there were plans on adapting it into a movie, I decided to check it out. I wasn’t thinking of it when I decided to read it, but it seemed fitting to read it coming off the heels of reading Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Maybe in Another Life (review).
Unfortunately the book did not grab me at all from the first chapter. But I stuck with it thinking that maybe it’ll pick up, I’ll get used to Greta’s narrative voice and I’ll settle into the story. Alas, it never happened: I didn’t warm to the characters nor was I terribly intereted in the back and forth between the different time periods and Greta’s increasing investment in what was going on in the other timelines. I don’t know why I stuck through for the rest of the book–maybe I was hoping that a storyline would pique my interest or whatnot–but maybe it was really because it’s not a very long read.
It’s a pity this book failed to interest me further as technically this book had a lot of interesting elements: the different timelines, Greta’s grief, the decisions we make and how they affect our lives (again, similarities to my previous read, Maybe in Another Life) the role of women during the different periods. But at times Greta’s musings felt a little heavy-handed, not to mention her investment in her twin brother’s love life was a bit much.
Overall I can see what the author was trying to do with this book and all of the themes running in it but it just didn’t interest me much.