We All Want Impossible Things: A Novel (Hardcover)
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November 2022 Indie Next List
“Catherine Newman’s writing brings poignancy, humor, insight, and joy to events both mundane and profound. For those who’ve lost a close friend or loved one in recent years, as so many of us have, this book is particularly meaningful.”
— Liz Whitelam, Whitelam Books, Reading, MA
“Catherine Newman sees the heartbreak and comedy of life with wisdom and unflinching compassion. The way she finds the extraordinary in the everyday is nothing short of poetry. She’s a writer’s writer—and a human’s human.”—New York Times bestselling author Katherine Center
“We All Want Impossible Things is a riotously funny and fiercely loyal love letter to female friendship. The story of Edi and Ash proves that a best friend is a gift from the gods. Newman turns her prodigious talents toward finding joy even in the friendship’s final days. I laughed while crying, and was left revived. Newman is a comic masterhand and a dazzling philosopher of the day-to-day.”—Amity Gaige, author of Sea Wife
“The funniest, most joyful book about dying—and living—that I have ever read.”—KJ Dell'Antonia, author of the New York Times bestselling The Chicken Sisters
For lovers of Meg Wolitzer, Maria Semple, and Jenny Offill comes this raucous, poignant celebration of life, love, and friendship at its imperfect and radiant best.
Edith and Ashley have been best friends for over forty-two years. They’ve shared the mundane and the momentous together: trick or treating and binge drinking; Gilligan’s Island reruns and REM concerts; hickeys and heartbreak; surprise Scottish wakes; marriages, infertility, and children. As Ash says, “Edi’s memory is like the back-up hard drive for mine.”
But now the unthinkable has happened. Edi is dying of ovarian cancer and spending her last days at a hospice near Ash, who stumbles into heartbreak surrounded by her daughters, ex(ish) husband, dear friends, a poorly chosen lover (or two), and a rotating cast of beautifully, fleetingly human hospice characters.
As The Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack blasts all day long from the room next door, Edi and Ash reminisce, hold on, and try to let go. Meanwhile, Ash struggles with being an imperfect friend, wife, and parent—with life, in other words, distilled to its heartbreaking, joyful, and comedic essence.
For anyone who’s ever lost a friend or had one. Get ready to laugh through your tears.
About the Author
CATHERINE NEWMAN has written a gazillion columns, articles, and canned-bean recipes for magazines and newspapers, and her essays have been widely anthologized. She is the author of the memoirs Waiting for Birdy and Catastrophic Happiness, the middle-grade novel One Mixed-Up Night, and the bestselling kids’ life-skills books How to Be a Person and What Can I Say? We All Want Impossible Things is her first adult novel. Not, like, adult adult in the porn way. Just, you know, for grown-ups. She lives in Amherst, Massachusetts.
“This is an absolute heartbreaker of a novel. Catherine Newman’s book, through deceptively simple language and everyday moments experienced during a friend’s hospice death — funny, sad, regretful, hopeful — is a celebration of life. For anyone who has prepared a hole in their heart for loss, We All Want Impossible Things is a reminder that, in time, that hollowed hallowed space is also there for when the light and love from grief pour back in.” — Laura Zigman, author of Separation Anxiety
“A novel set in a hospice has no right to be as hilarious, charming, and hopeful as We All Want Impossible Things. With Nora Ephron-style lightness, Catherine Newman has constructed a truly singular tale of love and friendship in the twenty-first century. I loved it.” — Joanna Rakoff, author of My Salinger Year
"Catherine Newman sees the heartbreak and comedy of life with wisdom and unflinching compassion. The way she finds the extraordinary in the everyday is nothing short of poetry. She’s a writer’s writer—and a human’s human." — New York Times bestselling author Katherine Center
"We All Want Impossible Things is a riotously funny and fiercely loyal love letter to female friendship. The story of Edi and Ash proves that a best friend is a gift from the gods. Newman turns her prodigious talents toward finding joy even in the friendship’s final days. I laughed while crying, and was left revived. Newman is a comic masterhand and a dazzling philosopher of the day-to-day." — Amity Gaige, author of Sea Wife
“The funniest, most joyful book about dying—and living—that I have ever read.” — KJ Dell’Antonia, author of The Chicken Sisters
"Gorgeous, tender, and unexpectedly funny. I read the entirety of Edi and Ash's story with my hand clasped over my heart." — Kate Baer, #1 New York Times bestselling author of What Kind of Woman and I Hope This Finds You Well
“Devastatingly humorous and humorously devastating, We All Want Impossible Things is an unbelievably brilliant and funny book about friendship, family, food, sex, and death. Catherine Newman serves up a masterclass in narrative – you’ll stay up late devouring every word.” — Katherine Heiny, author of Early Morning Riser and Standard Deviation
“The poignant and personal story of the decades-long friendship of Edith and Ashley takes place in a hospice ward, where Edi is dying of ovarian cancer. Sound sad? Heartbreaking? It is. But it’s also heartwarming and life affirming—and yes, hilarious.” — Publishers Weekly
"I adored this book. There is so much love, funniness, honesty, courage, mess, bounce, and surprise in this book, and not a shred of it is mawkish. Loss might be the central theme–or rather the process of losing your dearest friend–but it is the most robust and glorious affirmation of life. Pure genius and an utter joy to read." — Rachel Joyce, bestselling author of The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
"How did Catherine Newman write a book about dying that is so luminously alive? Earthy, funny, and terrifyingly honest—this is a book with heart and guts and all the other goopy gravy we need to stay among the living. A radical delight." — Rufi Thorpe, PEN/ Faulkner Finalist for The Knockout Queen
“Newman perfectly captures the beauty and burden of caring for someone in their final moments while showing the gift of Edi and Ash’s once-in-a-lifetime friendship. . . . A warm and remarkably funny book about death and caregiving that will make readers laugh through their tears.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Here and throughout, Newman does a wonderful job channeling Ash’s sense of impending loss . . . . Newman breathes ample life into this exquisite story of death and dying." — Publishers Weekly
"Breezy New York Nora-Ephron-style wit meets hospice memoir to create something PROFOUNDLY beautiful. Grief, love, cake—it's ALL there." — Marian Keyes, international bestselling author of Rachel's Holiday
“[Newman] brings Ash to life through a voice that is both hilarious and filled with crushing sadness, but the ultimate message is that of hope. A crossover readalike for fans of death memoirs such as those by Paul Kalanithi and Nora McInerny.” — Booklist
"Can NOT put this down. Read for two-plus hours straight last night. Read while standing in line today. Read any free minutes. So, so, so good . . . Smart women friendship fiction at its best." — Zibby Owens
"In author Catherine Newman's expert hands, We All Want Impossible Things is an extraordinary ode to friendship–warm, sometimes outrageously funny, and as real as it gets. It celebrates the gift of long-term bonds without shying away from the pain of losing someone you can't imagine life without." — Real Simple
"We All Want Impossible Things is ostensibly a novel about death—but it pulses with life . . . . full of moments both mundane and painful, hilarious and heartbreaking . . . . The complications of love, parenting and saying goodbye all mingle together in rich detail.” — BookPage, starred review
"Newman packs a gut punch, bringing humor and wit to a duo's final days together in We All Want Impossible Things." — PopSugar
"Grab the tissues and prepare to call your BFF after reading Newman's devastatingly hilarious and poignantly poetic story about the intimacy of female bonds." — E! News
“Here is the thing about this book. It is excruciatingly heartbreaking, but I laughed out loud on almost every page. And I am not an easy laugher. Newman’s voice is hilarious and warm; her characters feel like old friends . . . . a winning novel.” — New York Times
"This is one of my new favorite books—a smart friendship story that made me laugh and cry. Truly." — Zibby Owens, GMA.com
"[A] hug of a book . . . . a humorous, touching rumination on life, death, and friendship.” — Apartment Therapy
"Fearless, open-hearted, funny, and provocative" — Lit Hub
"Compulsively readable and tenderly hilarious." — Ploughshares
“I never thought any book would have me weeping more than A Little Life, but Catherine Newman’s We All Want Impossible Things broke that record . . . . Pairs well with Kathryn Schulz’s Lost & Found and/or Janine Kwoh’s Welcome to the Grief Club.”
— Southern Bookseller Review
“We All Want Impossible Things could be described as a book about cancer or a book about grief, but I’d describe Catherine Newman’s debut novel as a love letter to best-friendship . . . . Affirming, entertaining, and unaccountably, wonderfully funny . . . . [Newman] has a deep talent for the macabre humor and absurdity that it takes to describe the loss of someone you cannot bear to lose. (There is also, much to my delighted surprise, quite a bit of sex in the book.)” — Romper