Love and Oth­er Impos­si­ble Pursuits

  • Review
By – March 30, 2012

In Love and Oth­er Impos­si­ble Pur­suits, Ayelet Wald­man sub­tly chal­lenges read­ers to pon­der some eas­i­ly over­looked ques­tions bur­geon­ing with deep social impli­ca­tions: Are mater­nal instincts innate in every female? When and how does an adult female devel­op mater­nal instincts? Does every female nec­es­sar­i­ly devel­op them by virtue of sim­ply being female? Does giv­ing birth make a woman a mom or a moth­er, and is there a difference? 

When lead char­ac­ter and attor­ney Emi­lie Green­leaf mar­ries an old­er, estab­lished part­ner at her swanky Man­hat­tan law firm fol­low­ing their tor­rid affair and his sub­se­quent acri­mo­nious divorce, she instant­ly gains anoth­er title: step-mother. 

William, Jack Greenleaf’s five-year-old son, is inquis­i­tive, intel­li­gent and under­stand­ably dis­traught by his parent’s breakup and the new woman in his father’s life. William’s moth­er Car­olyn, a pop­u­lar Man­hat­tan gyne­col­o­gist whose screechy, dis­dain­ful atti­tude stereo­types the woman scorned,” con­sis­tent­ly under­mines Emilie’s attempts to estab­lish a rela­tion­ship with William by beseech­ing­ly tat­tling to Jack about any­thing Emi­lie does that might seem the least bit questionable.

For exam­ple, when Emi­lie picks William up from preschool at the 92nd Street Y after for­get­ting an umbrel­la on a cold, rainy day, Car­olyn accus­es her of doing so pur­pose­ly to get William sick. 

Com­pli­cat­ing mat­ters is that Emi­lie still grieves the recent death of her two-day-old daugh­ter, Isabel. Jack, a prag­mat­ic man with an ago­niz­ing­ly annoy­ing ex-wife, a pre­co­cious young son who has spent a great deal of time in ther­a­py for var­i­ous dif­fi­cul­ties Car­olyn insists were brought on by Emilie’s intru­sion in their lives, and a demand­ing law prac­tice, is too busy to express his grief out­ward­ly. By hav­ing to par­ent, or at least inter­act with and super­vise William while Jack and Car­olyn toil end­less­ly at their respec­tive pro­fes­sions while she is still mourn­ing Isabel, Emi­lie is unwit­ting­ly thrust into an incred­i­bly dif­fi­cult and near­ly impos­si­ble quandary: how to par­ent and moth­er when those instincts have not only not yet kicked in, but have been sev­ered by a sud­den and irre­versible trauma. 

Waldman’s some­times humor­ous, painstak­ing­ly accu­rate por­tray­al of par­ent­hood, lost dreams and the grav­i­ties and real­i­ties of life, love and fam­i­ly make for a dynam­ic read that is not only enter­tain­ing but thought-pro­vok­ing, as well.

Tami Kamin-Mey­er is a licensed attor­ney who would rather write than fight. Her byline has appeared in a vari­ety of pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing Bet­ter Homes and Gar­dens, The Rotar­i­an, Ohio Super Lawyers, Ohio Lawyers Week­ly, Ohio Mag­a­zine, Cleve­land Jew­ish News, the Jew­ish Tele­graph­ic Agency, and www​.chabad​.edu. She is also an award-win­ning Hebrew school educator.

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