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Love and Other Impossible Pursuits

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  3,680 ratings  ·  520 reviews
In this moving, wry, and candid novel, widely acclaimed novelist Ayelet Waldman takes us through one woman’s passage through love, loss, and the strange absurdities of modern life.

Emilia Greenleaf believed that she had found her soulmate, the man she was meant to spend her life with. But life seems a lot less rosy when Emilia has to deal with the most neurotic and sheltere
Paperback, 352 pages
Published January 9th 2007 by Anchor (first published January 1st 2006)
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Average rating 3.65  · 
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 ·  3,680 ratings  ·  520 reviews

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Sep 03, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: mothers
It's my fault, really. I put this book on my "to read" list a very, very long time ago, well before I was pregnant. When I saw it in the library, I picked it up without reading the jacket, instead remembering that I had once placed it on my list and therefore it must be something that I can read at any time. Wrong.

Pregnant mothers, especially those who have experienced a previous loss, should not read this while pregnant (or immediately after baby's arrival... not that you have time to read then
Jul 26, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The writing here is unusually strong. I didn't expect to like the story as much as I did. The characterization is outstanding, and when the narrative voice really fits, ring true. Because of point of view, the secondary characters work unusually well. As the reader, you're right with the main character's epiphanies about the others, which worked for me. Even though I haven't been to Central Park, as a metaphor for relationships, whoa.

This would be an interesting book to do for book club, if onl
Mar 22, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book took me WAY by surprise. It sounded great on the cover, bought it on a whim on the bargain bookshelf, and picked it up on a day when I couldn't stomach even one more minute of pharmacy talk.

The beginning was slow, and I didn't even think I was going to get to the middle - as much as I loathe doing it, I thought it was going to have to be one of those books I just don't ever finish. And then...something happened. Nothing concrete. No huge plot twists or dramas. But I connected with the
Jan 25, 2009 rated it did not like it
I picked this up because my book club is reading it, but I was thoroughly unmotivated to finish it. After reading the first two chapters I read the last chapter and felt no need to read anything in between.
This book reminded me of The Nanny Diary and the Bridget Jones books in as much as it asked me to feel sympathetic towards a narrator I had no reason to feel sympathy for. The narrator came across as shallow, self-pitying and no one I would care to have a conversation with, let alone follow al
Aug 25, 2010 rated it liked it
I go back and forth a lot with this one. Waldman does something very interesting in this book and I;m still not sure how I feel about it, and for that I give her a bonus star for what was otherwise a pretty badly written story.
LAOIP is about a lawyer named Emilia who falls madly, desperately in love with Jack, a nice Jewish lawyer who -whoops - happens to be married. Jack resists until he can't anymore and they end up together. Cliche.
Interesting, not cliche aspects that I appreciated:
1 - The id
Mar 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned-books
Beautifully written story about the difficulties surrounding being a step-parent. Not only did Emilia have to struggle to find her place in her new family, but she also endured one of the most horrible things a parent could ever experience - the loss of a child. I was very nearly in tears off and on throughout this work of art. I look forward to reading more of Ayelet Waldman's books. ...more
Michelle Robinson
Aug 20, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: could-not-finish
I am sure that many will love Emilia. I found her to be selfish and despicable. She seems to. Revel in the fact that she fell "in love with" a married man and sets out to seduce him at any costs. That she then dislikes his preschool aged son and treats him with thinly veiled contempt and seems to somehow feels herself superior to his mother, because the mother uses a nanny is just too much for me to take. This book is well paced and disliking a character has not precluded me from enjoying some b ...more
Mar 18, 2008 rated it it was ok
This book (by Ayelet Waldman, wife of Michael Chabon who wrote Kavalier & Klay) was a page turner, however, I cant remember despising a main character so much in a long time. What a selfish woman! I did enjoy the new york-centric storytelling, esp. about intricacies of Central Park. I just disliked the character so much it ruined it for me in the end.
Aug 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
Another semi-random library choice, "Love and Other Impossible Pursuits" by Ayelet Waldman served in part as an exercise in voyeurism: I just wanted to see if Michael Chabon's wife was as gifted a writer as he. The answer to that is a resounding NO, but she's not exactly talentless, either. Despite an endorsement from Sherman Alexie on the jacket blurb, this book falls squarely in the realm of "chick lit", or, more precisely, "depressing snooty-chick lit replete with an ample dose of infidelity ...more
Jan 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read2011

The character isn't terribly likable, but that isn't fair as she just lost her daughter. A two day old child. Grief is a powerful, life changing thing.

I couldn't put the book down, reading it in two days. I had to know what happened next, would her marriage survive, would she have another kid, could Carolyn be anymore of a bitch? But, I didn't love it. It wraps up too neatly, too cute for me.

Halfway through reading this, I thought i should read more books with female protagonists b
Oct 02, 2012 rated it liked it
I am not a reader of misery molly type women's fiction usually- there is enough real tragedy in the world to be read in The New York Times (are you listening, Jodi Picoult?), but I've been on an Ayelet Waldman kick lately, and reading her memoirs made me want to read this. It is an irritating and depressing story(terribly sad, the domino event being the death of a newborn), with characters so flawed as to be *almost* insufferable. And yet...I cannot put it down. It's like when you turn to the li ...more
Jun 09, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: imitating-life
Despite the many, many problems I had with this book, I ultimately enjoyed it. A lot of people have written the main character, Emilia, as whiny and self-pitying - and she is, and she admits it. But I don't think it's too far off considering she'd lost a child and blames herself heavily for the loss. I did enjoy watching her warm up to William, her stepson, and I really liked the tours of Central Park that Waldman took us on. I did not like that the ex-wife and the father were rather two-dimensi ...more
Jun 14, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people with children
This is a very funny, poignant and moving book about the loss of a baby and the developing relationship with a step-child. Sad and compellingly funny, a good sense of the narrator; twist of Freudian psychology seems a bit forced, but otherwise this is a modern NYC based book which is a lovesong to Central Park. The city itself plays a clear role as a character in the story.
Jenn Cordeiro
Dec 29, 2010 rated it did not like it
I did not like this book and found myself wanting to just skip ahead to see what happened and not wasting my time reading it.

It was just... boring.
Mar 24, 2011 rated it did not like it
Tried, but couldn't finish this one. Such hateable characters! ...more
Chaya Bhuvaneswar
I absolutely love this book.
Bookmarks Magazine

A few critics drew parallels between Emilia's life and the author's own; after all, Waldman achieved some sort of fame last year after she publicly announced that she loved her husband, novelist Michael Chabon, more than her four children. Alter-ego or not, Emilia and her evolving relationship with William take center stage here. But while some critics saw Emilia as narcissistic and wallowing in self-pity, others viewed her as a witty, resilient woman honest with her foibles. Critics similarly s

Mar 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, women
I haven't read any of Waldman's MommyTrack series so this author was new to me. I was impressed. As Emelia suffers through the devastating loss of her child, Walman had me right there with her. She avoids playgrounds and can barely stand to be around her step-son, William. Normally, I don't like books about affairs and am on the side of the ex-wife, but, despite Emilia's flaws, I wanted to read about her. Reading about Central Park and about the way her relationship with William developed was ab ...more
Sep 02, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audio, yuck
The audio version is well done, but after disc one I quit. There probably is a story here but for me the crude incidences that are included, as they do not seem relevant, detract immeasurably from whatever story is here. Why do we have to hear, 'When I want to give my husband a blow job." Or that she has the greatest love she could ever imagine which all started when she "f**ked him in his office". Then there is a rant about how she would never date a married man, how if he was unfaithful to his ...more
Aug 30, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: loathsome
This book was outrageously unrealistic for several reasons, but the one that really took the cake was the rival ex-wife pulling the autopsy record of the protagonist's daughter. Seriously? And William just did not ring true. In addition to having an intensely unlikeable main character, the adults in this book just make you want to strangle someone: two shrewish, hysterical women circle around a patient, good looking, successful, weary man who "manages them" (his words) to the best of his toleran ...more
Oct 21, 2010 rated it did not like it
Shelves: dropped, antipathy
only really made it 20 pages in before i realized it wasnt all taht great and if i had to read another page of this i was going to go more insane..
Jan 23, 2014 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
Oh, how I hated this book. I felt so sorry for the little boy, while thinking the whole time that pretty much all the adults needed to be shot out of a cannon into the sun.
May 22, 2014 rated it did not like it
Seemed kind of condescending.
At first I hated this book; actually I hated it for about four-fifths of the book. I couldn't stand the main character Emilia, I didn't even feel much sympathy for her loss which normally I would be heartbroken by. And I didn't appreciate her digs against Orthodox Judaism, even her epiphany at the end had to do with laying waste to the Jewish concept of bashert. No Orthodox individual would endorse infidelity and breaking up a marriage because you think someone is your bashert.
At the end Emilia
Lynn Pribus
Jul 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm rounding this up a bit because I did enjoy it. Despite being a bit over-written and a bit over-performed on CD and despite the main character Amelia being accurately (in the words of her patient and wiser older stepsister) "immature and self-centered" and despite doing bone-headed things involving her preschool aged stepson over and over again, I found myself cheering for her.

I could have smacked her a couple times, but she was coping with an angry former wife who was over protective of the
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites
One of the most beautifully written books I've read so far. ...more
Alta Featherstone
Aug 16, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This book has been sitting on my bookshelf for several years. For some reason I decided to pick it up. I could not put it down. Loved it!
Jul 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: general-fiction
I have been on a nice long stretch of really good books lately, this one included, and I hope it continues. As I started reading this book, I looked over some of the reviews here and one that stuck with me is that it was slow in the beginning. I really despise when books are slow in the beginning as I get very bored and can easily put the book down and stop reading it. I do agree that this book was slow, but it was the very very beginning, and before I knew it I was 100 pages in. I liked Ms. Wal ...more
4/27/2016: I finished this book quickly, trying to determine when I would feel sympathy for Emilia. Quite frankly, it didn't come, perhaps because of her myopic view but also her flatness. She has all the luxuries of the world, and is floating on her grief, neither wallowing nor dealing, and seems to take for granted the friends that are really willing to be there for her. Even in blaming herself, that seemed like a deflection from dealing with her problems, rather than actually seeking any kind ...more
Jun 26, 2010 rated it liked it
I recently won a Goodreads first-read contest of Waldman's new book, so I wanted to read something older to get a feel for her writing. There is one major uncomfortable subject that this book revolves around, which is DEAD BABIES.

So, knowing that, the book is pretty grim and sad. Emilia Greenleaf Woolf is a Jewish lawyer who is married to Jack, a prominent NYC attorney. Emilia is 10 years younger, and she usurps Jack's perfect marriage + child and marries into a family. The book circles around
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Ayelet Waldman is the author of A Really Good Day: How Microdosing Made a Mega Difference in My Mood, My Marriage, and My Life, Love and Treasure, Red Hook Road and The New York Times bestseller Bad Mother: A Chronicle of Maternal Crimes, Minor Calamities and Occasional Moments of Grace. Her novel Love and Other Impossible Pursuits was made into a film starring Natalie Portman. Her personal essays ...more

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