The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells

Andrew Sean Greer. Ecco, $26.99 (289p) ISBN 978-0-06-221378-5
In Greer’s time-traveling fourth novel (following The Story of a Marriage), the eponymous Greta skips between three different eras, and her life is intertwined with the same two characters (and other incarnations of herself) in each. Greta Wells, living in New York City in 1985, is devastated by her twin brother Felix’s death from AIDS and the end of her long-term relationship with Nathan. To treat her crippling depression, she pursues electroconvulsive therapy, which begins a cycle of magical time travel. In 1941, Felix is alive and Nathan is her husband; and in 1918, Nathan is away at war and Felix, though still homosexual, is deeply closeted. As the Greta of 1985 explores these timelines, the versions of herself from 1918 and 1941 also travel to each other’s eras. No timeline is perfect; each offers losses and compensations. Felix’s stories provide an especially moving exploration of the limited choices available to gay people throughout history. The Gretas have surprisingly little solidarity, intruding into each other’s lives without warning or permission. While Greer too often skimps on the period details that can give time travel stories a sense of reality, the novel’s central questions—how does experience change us, and which relationships are worth sacrificing for—work to bridge its chronological jumps. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit. (June)
Reviewed on: 04/15/2013
Release date: 06/01/2013
Other - 978-0-06-226849-5
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-228351-1
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-06-221379-2
Hardcover - 333 pages - 978-1-61173-917-6
Paperback - 304 pages - 978-0-571-29540-1
Hardcover - 289 pages - 978-0-571-29539-5
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