What is The Beautiful Possible about? While the story flirts with many conflicting ideas (the search for God, the struggle to find one’s identity), the core of the book lies within the hearts of our three protagonists: sad and searching Walter, a refugee from World War II, his life permanently on hold as he struggles to come to terms with the loss of his family; young and eager Rosalie, recently engaged and searching for meaning and happiness in her newfound adulthood; and confused and lost Sol, Rosalie’s fiancé and a soon-to-be rabbi, a man who believes his happiness will be found in the study of the Bible, forced to confront hidden inner feelings the moment he and Walter are introduced.
We meet these three characters early on in their lives, when the future still holds so much possibility. As the years go on, we see how these characters morph into people who become strangers to one another — strangers who want totally different things. The star student becomes the rabbi struggling to find a connection to God; the optimistic bride becomes the overwhelmed and disappointed wife; the refugee know-it-all turns regretful, moving throughout life without a home or a family to claim as his own.
While all three characters love each other intensely, the love changes throughout the years as well. Sol and Rosalie find their initial attraction and lust diminished after Rosalie and Walter set off into a wild affair that changes all their lives forever. And Sol and Walter’s relationship grows from study partners and friends to something more complex, more confusing for Sol and his tortured heart.
What could be seen as a superficial love triangle between these characters is to overlook the complexity that is found in their relationships. Sol and Rosalie love each other, but Walter manages to inspire both Sol and Rosalie in different ways. The book traces their growth from young adult to the end of their lives, as Rosalie and Sol get married and have children, while Walter becomes a scholar and traveler of the world. The connection these three characters have to one another is not a simple one, but one wrapped in years of lust, intellectual stimulation, betrayal, and compassion.
A fable for the modern era, a love story steeped in biblical text and mystical yearning—The Beautiful Possible illuminates the struggle to find one’s identity in a world rife with expectation and judgment — and how entirely possible it is that the life you think you are living might, in fact, be a beautiful lie.
Evie Saphire-Bernstein is the program director of Jewish Book Council. She graduated from the University of Illinois at Chicago with a B.A. in English and a minor in Jewish Studies. Before joining the Jewish Book Council team in 2015, she spent a year and a half working within the Conservative Movement as the Network Liaison for the Schechter Day School Network. She is a recent transplant to New York City, after living in Chicago for most of her life. In her spare time, Evie is a writer and blogger.