cover image The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano

The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano

Donna Freitas. Viking/Dorman, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-1-984880-59-8

YA novelist Freitas’s stunning adult fiction debut (after her memoir Consent) spins nine alternating story lines about a husband and wife who initially didn’t want children but, at various points, change their minds. Each “Take,” as they’re titled, begins the same way, with sociology professor Rose Napolitano confronted by her husband for neglecting to take her prenatal vitamins. Rose has been humoring Luke, who began pressuring Rose about having children after much prodding from his parents, who won’t believe they don’t want kids and aren’t shy about letting them know it. From there, various consequences play out in each of the nine stories, which extend from the present to 2025. In one, Rose gives in and they have a baby. In others, Rose or Luke leaves for various reasons. The fact that Luke and Rose aren’t right for each other remains consistent throughout, and becomes especially in evident Luke’s controlling treatment of Rose while leading their effort to have a child. Certain variables manifest in different ways, such as how Rose meets her lover, Thomas—at work, at a book signing, or during her mother’s chemo sessions—and how Thomas came to have a daughter. Freitas’s prose is engaging and precise, and her what-if format proves ideal for elegantly unpacking the tensions of the plot. She balances tightly written scenes of confrontation with Rose’s poignant reflections on how much she can compromise without losing herself completely. This isn’t one to miss. Agent: Miriam Altshuler, DeFiore & Company. (Apr.)