cover image An Impossible Love

An Impossible Love

Christine Angot, trans. from the French by Armine Kotin Morimer. Archipelago, $18 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-953861-04-7

The uneven latest from Angot (Incest) slowly unveils the devastating impact of a terrible family secret. The narrator, Christine, tells of the affair her parents had before she was born. Pierre and Rachel want a child, but Pierre doesn't want to marry Rachel. When Rachel informs Pierre she's pregnant, they take a brief trip to the Cote d'Azur, where he borrows money from Rachel before leaving her, telling her that if she %E2%80%9Chad been rich%E2%80%9D he would have considered marrying her. Rachel moves in with her mother to raise her child, and Pierre occasionally writes letters to Christine, but during rare visits he refuses Christine and Rachel's requests that he legally acknowledge he is the father. After Pierre marries a wealthy woman, Rachel breaks off contact with him, and though Christine has always been close with her mother, she becomes unruly and cruel to her after Pierre reappears. Eventually, a family friend reveals a secret Christine has been keeping. Though Angot writes beautifully about the women's intimate relationship, the final pages rush through Rachel and Christine's struggles to come to terms with Pierre's destructive influence, which feels a bit jarring after the slow, drawn-out setup. It's a decidedly mixed bag, but, at its best, this offers an illuminating account of a mother and daughter's complicated love. (Nov.)