Impossible Lives of Greta Wells (Greer)

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells 
Andrew Sean Greer, 2013
289 pp.
ISBN-13: 9780062213792

1985. After the death of her beloved twin brother, Felix, and the breakup with her longtime lover, Nathan, Greta Wells embarks on a radical psychiatric treatment to alleviate her suffocating depression. But the treatment has unexpected effects, and Greta finds herself transported to the lives she might have had if she'd been born in different eras.

During the course of her treatment, Greta cycles between her own time and alternate lives in 1918, where she is a bohemian adulteress, and 1941, which transforms her into a devoted mother and wife. Separated by time and social mores, Greta's three lives are remarkably similar, fraught with familiar tensions and difficult choices. Each reality has its own losses, its own rewards, and each extracts a different price. And the modern Greta learns that her alternate selves are unpredictable, driven by their own desires and needs.

As her final treatment looms, questions arise: What will happen once each Greta learns how to remain in one of the other worlds? Who will choose to stay in which life?

Magically atmospheric, achingly romantic, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells beautifully imagines "what if" and wondrously wrestles with the impossibility of what could be. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—November 21, 1970
Where—Washington, DC, USA
Education—B.A., Brown University; M.F.A., University of Montana
Currently—lives in San Francisco, California

Andrew Sean Greer is an American novelist and short story writer. Born in Washington D.C., he is the son, and identical twin, of two scientists. He attended Brown University, where he was the commencement speaker at his own graduation, with his off-the-cuff remarks criticizing Brown's admissions policies setting off a near riot.

Following graduation Greer lived in New York, working in various jobs — as a chauffeur, theater tech, television extra — to support his habit as an unsuccessful writer. After several years, he headed to graduate school at the University of Montana in Missoula where he received an M.F.A. From Missoula, he moved to Seattle and two years later to San Francisco where he now lives.

While in San Francisco, Greer began publishing his short fiction in magazines; over the years his stories have appeared in Esquire, Paris Review, New Yorker, among others, and they have been anthologized in The Book of Other People, and The PEN/ O. Henry Prize Stories 2009. His collection of stories, How It Was for Me, was released in 2000.

He published his first novel, The Path of Minor Planets, in 2001 and since then has had a string of generally well-regarded, if not always top-selling books: The Confessions of Max Tivoli (2003), perhaps his best-known; The Story of a Marriage (2008), The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells (2013); and Less (2017).  (Adapted from Wikipedia. Retrieved 7/12/2013.)

Book Reviews
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.... 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.
Publishers Weekly

Greer's 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.... But with each treatment, a door is opened to a different life, [and] the relationships change and mutate in each era she experiences. —Susan Carr, Edwardsville P.L., IL
Library Journal

A woman inhabits three different selves in a time-travel novel from an author long fascinated by the manipulation of time (The Confessions of Max Tivoli, 2004, etc.). Young men are dying like flies. It's 1985, and AIDS is rampant, especially in Greenwich Village, where Greta Wells is mourning the death of her beloved twin brother, Felix. Not only that: Her longtime lover, Nathan, has left her for a younger woman. "Any time but this one" is what Greta yearns for. Her prayer is answered, sort of, when she begins a course of electroconvulsive procedures and finds herself, an earlier Greta, in 1918...[and] in 1941.... [A]ll this leads to more confusion than enlightenment.... The Confessions of Max Tivoli was more inventive and more satisfying.
Kirkus Reviews

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