The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells

Time travel is such a fascinating idea.  If Stewie and Brian can do it, it must be possible, right?  Andrew Sean Greer writes a unique story in which characters are able to move through time. 

Greta Wells lives in 1985 Brooklyn.  Life is running smoothly, until the death of her twin brother Felix, followed by the leaving of her lover Nathan.  Pushed to her mental and emotional limits, Greta opts for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) to help her become herself again.  That’s the idea, at least. 

Over the course of twenty-five treatments, Greta does see a change.  She moves between her own year of 1985, 1918 and 1941.  Each year has similarities– the same people in her life, the same house, the same need for ECT.  There are distinct differences as well.  The biggest being that Felix is still alive.

Each shock treatment moves Greta between years, a circle of time in which the “other” Gretas also experience her 1985 world.  They are all trying to help each other deal with various losses or experiences.  

The time lines vary in story enough to make it interesting, and the main Greta, the 1985 version, can see how she differs from her counterparts. 

Andrew Sean Greer wrote a story that’s unlike anything I’ve read.  Time travel isn’t a new concept, but I haven’t experienced it in this way.  The book has a magical quality, that makes you wonder what you’re doing in your own alternate time. 

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