REVIEW: The Impossible Us by Sarah Lotz
Bee thinks she has everything: a successful business repurposing wedding dresses, and friends who love and support her. She’s given up on finding love, but that’s fine. There’s always Tinder. Nick thinks he has nothing: his writing career has stalled after early promise and his marriage is on the rocks, but that’s fine. There’s always gin. So when one of Nick’s emails, a viciously funny screed intended for a non-paying client, accidentally pings into Bee’s inbox, they decide to keep the conversation going. After all, they never have to meet.
But the more they get to know each other, the more Bee and Nick realize they want to. They both notice strange pop culture or political references that crop up in their correspondence, but nothing odd enough to stop Bee and Nick for falling hard for each other. But when their efforts to meet in real life fail spectacularly, Bee and Nick discover that they’re actually living in near-identical but parallel worlds. With a universe between them, Bee and Nick will discover how far they’ll go to beat impossible odds.
CW: infidelity, suicide, partner emotional abuse
Dear Ms. Lotz,
First the cover said “investigate me.” So I did. Then the blurb said “You know you want to read me.” And I did. The opening email screed had me in stitches and I was hooked as Nick and Bee began their relationship through emails. Or in Nick’s case – imails. For much of the book I was frantic to find out “What would happen next” as this book is something I adore – unpredictable. Then it sort of started to change into something I wasn’t expecting and didn’t particularly care for. And that was before the ending.
I don’t want to give too many spoilers but the blurb basically hands over a big one. At this point, one character begins to investigate and realization of what may be happening arrives and is accepted very quickly. My brain would have been reeling. In the service of getting on to the next stage of the plot, some science hand waving goes on and everyone who knows settles down. Well everyone except for the people who aren’t told what’s going on until the plot needs them to know. A whole lot of people end up knowing.
Still I was caught up in the story. It’s different – at least I hadn’t read anything like it – and emotional and as I said, I didn’t know where it was going. Then it sort of turned into a pig on roller skates going in directions I hadn’t expected and ending up all over the place. Was it a romance? Or was it Sci-fi/fantasy? If a romance, was it happy or bittersweet? If Sci-fi/fantasy, was it vague or detailed? It couldn’t seem to decide what it was going to end up being. The characters are mostly well rounded and given enough flaws to make them feel real. I also liked that Bee and Nick are slightly older than the average romance couple.
Bee has a brilliant idea of how the two of them might work out a way to be together. But the more they traveled down this road, the more I didn’t like it. Several people who are aware of what is going on tell both of them that this isn’t right. I was nodding along with this. Bee and Nick manipulate people, lie, commit what might be thought of as “infidelity” (the characters seem to view it as this), and it made me very, very uncomfortable. Things go tits up in multiple ways and I couldn’t find it in me to be sorry about this even as I was concerned about how the book might end. Yeah and that left me unsatisfied on both counts. Nick, a writer, even mentions how sometimes book endings have readers leaving reviews in which they rail about “how could the writer have ended the book this way?” Yes to this.
What I wanted to happen didn’t. Or did it? The book finally uses some of the heaping amounts of set up situations, characters, and clues that have been sprinkled laboriously through it to get to an ending that might or might not be what readers want. I’m still unsure and am just going to accept that I’m apparently being left to decide what I want and that, whatever that might be, I now have it. This isn’t my personal choice – I prefer cut and dried over hazy maybe. YMMV and I know a lot of people will love this book but enough other things left me unsatisfied that the unusual-to-me plot and initial enjoyment of the banter and relationship couldn’t carry the day. C+
I put myself on the waiting list for this book at my public library because the blurb was so intriguing. Now I’m wondering if I should cancel the hold….not a big fan of pigs on roller skates. :-) Or bittersweet endings.
@SusanS: Another thing to think about – and that I debated including in the review due to how contentious things are now – is how Nick and Bee discuss the differences between their worlds. This turned out to be (IMO) the author including her viewpoints on politics and the environment, among other things.
I read your review with one eye closed, @jayne, because I am very interested in reading this book. I’ll try to come back once I’ve read it.
@Kareni: I would love to know what readers think of it. So far, looking at other review sites, I’m in the minority viewpoint.
Aw, darn it! I just got the book and started it yesterday! I even pre-ordered and I don’t normally do that with unknown authors. :(
Okay, I finished it. I think I liked it better than Jayne did, but I can certainly see why you’d find it concerning, to say the least. I was expecting something a la Griffin and Sabine and it was at least somewhat different than that. It definitely had twists and turns. I suppose if I’d been writing it I would have tried the other way around first (i.e. see if there’s some way to travel between the two universes rather than find equivalents at home), but I see why she did it the way she did. Whether or not the ending is romantic, I dunno…ambiguous/weird but hopeful, I suppose? It’s an unusual/interesting book for sure. I think I might say it’s in the B range for me.
@Jennifer: I’m glad you liked it better – especially as you pre-ordered it!
Yes to “would rather try actually traveling between multiverses first” but given how the author set up how that might work, I guess what they did makes better sense then going straight to “beating Nick to within an inch of his life to see if maybe his ‘soul’ could make it into Bee’s world.”
I viewed the ending as hopeful but part of me also wondered, if it worked, would Nick (in Bee’s world) end up with basically two people in his head.
I’m glad I read your review before reading the book. I ended up focusing on the plot, not the characters, because I wasn’t a fan of their manipulative behavior, and there was something ick about the “equivalents” strategy. But as you said, even the plot went off the rails at the end. It was a quick, propulsive read, but definitely not a book that I will revisit.
@SusanS: “It was a quick, propulsive read …”
I agree with you about that. Other reviewers have mentioned how much they like Lodz’s writing so I just went and read the blurbs of her other novels, thinking maybe I’d try one of them. But several seem downright disturbing to me so it just might be that I’m not the right reader for her books.
@Jayne: The library copy arrived, and I zipped through the book in a couple of days. I quite enjoyed it even though it surprised me with how it dealt with the issues facing the main characters. I found it a gripping read, and my husband got to hear a lot about this book as I was reading it (whether he wanted to or not!) I can’t disagree with anything in your review, but I liked the book nonetheless!
@Kareni: I’m glad you enjoyed it. And what was your husband’s opinion on the issues? ☺
@Jayne, I think he found the whole rather farfetched, but he listened graciously nonetheless.
@Jayne. Perhaps when you get as old as I am (75yoa next birthday) (and a bloke to boot) you might accept things more for what they are as opposed to what you want them to be. I couldn’t fault this book although the ending wasn’t exactly how I expected it to end, but be that as it may that’s how it ended and I have to accept that. Did the ending put me off? Absolutely not. I bought the Kindle version and yes, I read a lot of reviews before I did and there were a lot more good ones than the other way around. (568 ratings and 4.5 stars at the moment) This was one book I’ll remember and I enjoyed it immensely. What I can say to other future readers is sometimes you have to ignore the negatives and find out for yourself. Anyway, I’m off to buy a tweed suit.
@Paul Eastley.: Paul, I’m glad you enjoyed the book. In an earlier comment, I mentioned that at the time, my opinion was in the minority of the ones I’d read. We’ve had many commenters say a variation of “I read reviews to help me make up my mind but then I make the final decision of whether to read a book or not.” That is absolutely what I do, too. I hope you have a dapper fedora to go with the tweed suit. ☺