Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, Ayelet Waldman (read December 2007)

I read this on the recommendation of another member of my book review group. I did not write a proper review, but below is my end of an email exchange about the book, which I loved:

Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, Ayelet Waldman (2006)[*****]

A number of years ago, Ayelet Waldman wrote an essay -- I thhink it
was called "Mother Love" -- in which she asserted a successful
marriage must be based on a clear hierarchy of love, in which the
spouses are the center of each other's universe, with their love for
their children clearly secondary. She claimed that if she had to make
a choice between her husband and her four children, she would without
question choose her husband, because she could not imagine life
without him, but could imagine life without her children, as long as
she still had her husband. This essay, as you can imagine, caused
quite a stir among the "mommy blogging" community I used to frequent.
Her formulation of familial love is not one I can really wrap my head
around; I guess my own family feels much more like an organic whole,
and it's not so easy for me to pick apart and quantify my love for any
of its individual members. I will put this book on my list and see if
it illuminates her position on love, marriage and family in a way her
essay certainly did not!

I picked this up last night when I took the kids to the bookstore, and I just finished it. I will admit I got little else done today... It is very like Sense and Sensibility, isn't it? Sense and Sensibility on speed. I loved it and feel a little breathless. I
connected with the story and with Emilia in so many layered ways – I could write a whole essay, much less a review, but I'll spare you. Just thanks for the recommendation.

Ans, you should read this book. I think you will love it too. I would love to talk to you about it. I think it's an amazing portrait of grief, and the redemptive power of love to carry us through. It's also a beautiful portrait of that crazy city you love and won't leave to come life with us in our beloved (and cheap!) Philadelphia.


I almost think this book was penance for that stupid essay. (Moms still talk about it in the blogosphere!) Anyway, I really loved it, even if her portait of Emilia's crunchy sister Allison seemed a bit of a cheap shot (but maybe I protest too much?). And who puts a tall five year old in a five point harness? I don't think that's even safe. But other than that, I thought it was fab. I would love to read the same story from Carolyn's perspective. I thought they were sort of the WASP/Jew version of basically the same sensibility.

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