cover image We All Want Impossible Things

We All Want Impossible Things

Catherine Newman. Harper, $25.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-06-323089-7

Newman’s moving adult debut (after the kids’ guide What Can I Say?) explores a lifelong friendship between two women, one of whom is dying. Set primarily in a hospice where Edi is dying of ovarian cancer, the story shifts between past and present to show the depth of Edi’s lifelong bond with Ash—the childhood missteps, the joys, the Bowie concerts, and their “absolute dependability” for each other, as Ash puts it. When Edi receives her terminal prognosis, Ash becomes her primary bedside companion. But this isn’t just a harrowing depiction of the heartbreak and indignity of Edi’s decline, it’s also about Ash, who stumbles through her disintegrating marriage, contends with her daughter’s refusal to go to school, and takes a series of lovers. Ash also details the moments—at turns hilarious and sad—that make up her friendship, calling Edi’s memories a “back-up hard drive” for her own. Here and throughout, Newman does a wonderful job channeling Ash’s sense of impending loss. Ash also keeps up a steady stream of wickedly wry observations, such as her description of a group of children who visit Edi’s bedside to play their recorders, “stand[ing] in a nervous semicircle, clutching their terrible instruments.” Newman breathes ample life into this exquisite story of death and dying. (Nov.)