The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells - Andrew Sean Greer

I wanted this book to be so much more literary than it was. The plot is ridiculously contrived. Like THE TIME TRAVELER'S WIFE, none of the main characters question the implausibility of the fantastical circumstances, but unlike TTTW, the writing style of this book does not make me forgive that implausibility. At a mere 289 pages (minus the many blank pages separating each new chapter), the plot of this book is far too complicated for its length. Greta's time travel (or more accurately, her travel to an alternate life, in an alternate time) requires far more explanation, far more description and far more depth than Mr. Greer has provided us. Her feelings for her husband and her lover never feel properly fleshed out and her feelings for her son are never addressed at all. Outside of her relationship with her brother, I don't feel as if I really knew Greta. Each chapter was a run-down of what was happening when, and to whom, followed by a summary of how it made her feel. As often as she would TELL me how she felt (in a first person narration with no real voice), I never really FELT as if she was feeling it. There were some beautifully written passages that affected me no more than if I had read them from a philosophy textbook.

This was an ambitious book that never lived up to its promise. With the exception of the recounting the height of the AIDS epidemic in 1985's Greenwich Village, I don't think Mr. Greer tried very hard to research the eras he was depicting. 1918 was very repetitive and 1941 was hardly described at all. Again, not very literary.