Have you ever read a book by an author and loved the book so much that you just go on a rampage and try and read everything they’ve done? That happened to me most recently with Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat. I first read Chocolat many years ago and fell in love with it. Since then, I’ve read six of her other novels and loved each one of them.
I thought that was going to happen again with Ayelet Waldman, who wrote the beautifully tragic novel, Red Hook Road. I loved that book so much and thought the characters were fantastic, so I started working my way through her other publications, starting with Love and Other Impossible Pursuits.
Perhaps I didn’t like this book because I can’t really relate to any of the characters in it, but I found Love and Other Impossible Pursuits slightly annoying and dull.
In a basic story of taking the good with the bad, lawyer Emilia Greenleaf finds her soulmate in fellow lawyer, Jack. She thinks this is the start of eternal happiness until she finds out A) Jack is married and B) Jack has a neurotic 5-year-old named William. Having to find balance between Jack’s (very recent) ex-wife, Jack’s needs, William’s needs, and her own, Emilia embarks on a journey of acceptance and understanding, navigating a new life and a new family with as much courage and strength as she can muster.
So here’s where I get frustrated. Jack is the most boring, flat character ever. He’s wishy washy and weak, and even though he’s portrayed as Mr. Fabulous through the eyes of Emilia, you can’t help but question her views when her and Jack talk about, oh, anything. In fact, I probably would have had more respect for Emilia if she just threw Jack out at the end (SPOILER ALERT: They live happily ever after).
I did appreciate Emilia’s very real and emotional dislike for her stepson, William. I thought this made her more relatable and empathetic, as her stepson really is a total spoiled brat. However, her relationship with her stepson was so much more interesting than her relationship with her husband that I just started to loose focus while reading. If the book was just about her evolving relationship with her stepson, I think I would have liked it more.
All in all, I felt this book was meh. Some people out there might really like Emilia and think she’s a strong woman who fights for what she wants. In truth, she’s a home wrecker who thought it was “God’s plan” to have this affair with then-married Jack. There’s an attempt to make Jack’s ex-wife Carolyn out to be the villain of the story, but Carolyn, in certain ways, is actually more relatable than Emilia, making it hard to see this hero-villain relationship play out accordingly.
With common storylines and characters and little to no development of Emilia or Jack, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits is an okay read, but not one of Ayelet Waldman’s best.
Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.