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. His most recent novel is The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells (2013). He is also the bestselling author of The Story of a Marriage (2008), which the New York Times has called an “inspired, lyrical novel,” and The Confessions of Max Tivoli (2004), which was named one of the best books of 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle and received a California Book Award. His third novel (2013)

Andrew Sean Greer, the child of two scientists, was born in Washington, D.C.. He studied writing with Robert Coover and Edmund White at Brown University, where he was the commencement speaker at his own graduation, where his unrehearsed remarks, critiquing Brown's admissions policies, caused a semi-riot. After years in New York working as a chauffeur, theater tech, television extra and unsuccessful writer, he moved to Missoula, Montana, where he received his Master of Fine Arts from The University of Montana, and from where he soon moved to Seattle and two years later to San Francisco where he now lives. He is currently a fellow at the New York Public Library Cullman Center. He is an identical twin.

While in San Francisco, he began to publish in magazines before releasing a collection of his stories, How It Was for Me. His stories have appeared in Esquire,  Paris Review,  New Yorker and other national publications, and have been anthologized most recently in The Book of Other People, and The PEN/ O. Henry Prize Stories 2009.

His first novel, The Path of Minor Planets, was published in 2001.

His second book, The Confessions of Max Tivoli, came out in 2004. Writing in The New Yorker, John Updike called the book “enchanting, in the perfumed, dandified style of disenchantment brought to grandeur by Proust and Nabokov.” Mitch Albom then chose The Confessions of Max Tivoli for the Today Show Book Club and it soon became a bestseller. The story of a man aging backwards, it was inspired by the Bob Dylan song "My Back Pages." Though similar in theme, it is related neither to the Fitzgerald short story, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" nor its film adaptation.

Greer's third novel, The Story of a Marriage, received a mixed reception. John Updike revised his earlier assessment of Greer in The New Yorker: "Greer is a prose writer who works on the edge of the overcooked, and there is nothing wrong with that—better that than raw—but can we believe in these highly seasoned sentences as passing through Pearl’s mind?" The Independent noted of the novel, "The author's signposting is not only heavy-handed but typical." The New York Times said of "The Story of a Marriage": "Mr. Greer seamlessly choreographs an intricate narrative that speaks authentically to the longings and desires of his characters. All the while he never strays from the convincing and steady voice of Pearlie. The Washington Post chose it as a book of the year, and called it "thoughtful, complex and exquisitely written." (From Wikipedia. Retrieved 7/12/2003.)

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells, Greer's fourth novel, was referred to  as "elegaic" by Jess Walter in the New York Times

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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