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The impossible lives of Greta Wells
2013
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Fiction/Biography Profile
Characters
Greta Wells (Female), Twin, Struggling with the death of her beloved gay twin brother and the abandonment of her long-time lover; undergoes electricshock therapy; finds herself repeatedly sent to 1918, 1941, and back to the present
Genre
Fiction
Fantasy
Historical
Psychological
Topics
Grief
Loss
Electroshock therapy
Death of a sibling
Time travel
Alter-egos
Love
Infidelity
Alternate reality
Mental depression
Reincarnation
Setting
New York - Mid-Atlantic States (U.S.)
Time Period
1985 -- 20th century
1918 -- 20th century
1941 -- 20th century
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Library Journal Review

Greer's (The Story of a Marriage; The Confessions of Max Tivoli) imaginative treatment of love and relationships shines again in his third novel. It is 1985 when Greta is faced with a debilitating depression after the death of her twin brother, Felix, and shortly thereafter the end of her marriage. She seeks electroconvulsive treatment, a succession of 25 procedures, for her condition. The doctor assures her it will not change her, only alleviate her depression. But with each treatment, a door is opened to a different life, either in 1918, 1941, or 1985. Although Greta keeps her feelings intact for her beloved brother, her former husband, Nathan, and her Aunt Ruth, the relationships change and mutate in each era she experiences. As her time travel escalates outsides the boundaries of her understanding and logic, Greta is faced with bracing herself for the unknown. VERDICT Fans of Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife will delight in following the thought process of time traveling while maintaining a hold on a singular identity. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/13.]-Susan Carr, Edwardsville P.L., IL (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

  Publishers Weekly Review

In Greer's time-traveling fourth novel (following The Story of a Marriage), the eponymous Greta skips between three different eras, and her life is intertwined with the same two characters (and other incarnations of herself) in each. Greta Wells, living in New York City in 1985, is devastated by her twin brother Felix's death from AIDS and the end of her long-term relationship with Nathan. To treat her crippling depression, she pursues electroconvulsive therapy, which begins a cycle of magical time travel. In 1941, Felix is alive and Nathan is her husband; and in 1918, Nathan is away at war and Felix, though still homosexual, is deeply closeted. As the Greta of 1985 explores these timelines, the versions of herself from 1918 and 1941 also travel to each other's eras. No timeline is perfect; each offers losses and compensations. Felix's stories provide an especially moving exploration of the limited choices available to gay people throughout history. The Gretas have surprisingly little solidarity, intruding into each other's lives without warning or permission. While Greer too often skimps on the period details that can give time travel stories a sense of reality, the novel's central questions-how does experience change us, and which relationships are worth sacrificing for-work to bridge its chronological jumps. Agent: Lynn Nesbit, Janklow & Nesbit. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
Summary
<p>From the critically acclaimed author of the New York Times bestseller The Confessions of Max Tivoli comes The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, a rapturously romantic story of a woman who finds herself transported to the "other lives" she might have lived.</p> <p>After the death of her beloved twin brother and the abandonment of her long-time lover, Greta Wells undergoes electroshock therapy. Over the course of the treatment, Greta finds herself repeatedly sent to 1918, 1941, and back to the present. Whisked from the gas-lit streets and horse-drawn carriages of the West Village to a martini-fueled lunch at the Oak Room, in these other worlds, Greta finds her brother alive and well--though fearfully masking his true personality. And her former lover is now her devoted husband...but will he be unfaithful to her in this life as well? Greta Wells is fascinated by her alter egos: in 1941, she is a devoted mother; in 1918, she is a bohemian adulteress.</p> <p>In this spellbinding novel by Andrew Sean Greer, each reality has its own losses, its own rewards; each extracts a different price. Which life will she choose as she wrestles with the unpredictability of love and the consequences of even her most carefully considered choices?</p>
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