Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, Ayelet Waldman, Doubleday, 2006, 340 pp
Emilia Greenleaf has lost her first baby, who died after only a few days of life. Though she lives in elegant digs on Manhattan's Upper West Side and her husband, a successful lawyer, is the epitome of a caring and understanding man, Emilia has huge problems: a three year old precocious stepson who apparently hates her, the husband's ex-wife who apparently hates her even more and her grief which is wild and unmanageable.
Ayelet Waldman is married to Michael Chabon, an author whom I worship after reading The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay. The reviews of this novel are mostly glowing. Maybe it is the New York setting, the income level or the style, but I felt like I was reading The Nannie Diaries or The Devil Wears Prada. Don't misunderstand: I enjoyed those books for what they were, just as I always enjoyed Judith Krantz and Jackie Collins. Somehow I expected something different from the wife of Michael Chabon. It is the reverse side of marketing ("If you liked..., you'll like...") and I am annoyed with myself that I fell into the category of a modern person who judges things in such a dumbed down idiocrat fashion.
Here is what I did like: Emilia Greenleaf as a character is believable, in her histrionic annoying yet appealing way. She know vaguely that she is acting inappropriately much of the time, but she can't really care. At least she knows.
I was impressed by Waldman's descriptions of today's Central Park and how she wove that location into the story. I love it when place becomes almost a character. William, the three year old stepson, is the best character in a story of "characters." This author clearly knows kids and in fact has four of her own and has written seven mystery novels in a series called "The Mommy-Track Mysteries." Last, but definitely not least, the sex writing is good.
The ex-wife and Emilia's parents were not as well done, the ending was a little sappy, but I read this novel in one day, was involved the whole time and maybe best of all, I felt absolved from some of my own parenting sins. I might have to check out one of those "Mommy-Track" mysteries.
(This book is available in paperback by special order at Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)