We All Want Impossible Things, Catherine Newman


November 2023

I saw everyone going mad for this book in January 2023 and thought, do I want to read a book about someone dying, when everyone, everywhere seems to be dying? Nah. No thanks. Not for me.

So thank goodness for the fiction fairy godmother Laura Price, author of the excellent Single Bald Female (which I remember reading the opening scenes to on the same train journey I am writing this review on, back in 2017). Generous Laura bought every lovely woman on her hen do in September a book that she thought would suit them. I’m not sure whether she bought me We All want Impossible Things because she knew I needed to face up to stories like these, or because she knew I’d love the quick, edgy, sardonic style, but it is one of my favourite reads of the year. I cried throughout, and I’m crying while writing this, and the woman opposite is looking at me with a kindly smile, and I haven’t even had a drink yet.

We All Want Impossible Things is about the last weeks of a friendship between two women, Edi and Ashley, as Ashley approaches death in hospice. We hear the story from Edi, who spends as much time with her lifelong friend Ashley as possible, dashing between the hospice, her own two children, her ex, and the numerous men she feels compelled to have sex with - so much sex as her friend is dying! - which serves as a counterbalance to the illness and the sadness, though also highlighting Edi’s rush to life, to feel things and to be alive and physical and to do and feel and experience all the things it is a human’s privilege to.

It’s devastating material. I won’t pretend the humour makes it easier to bear. All the same, I didn’t want to put it down. Newman’s ability to spot and share the tiniest but most insightful details is just my kind of writing.

Thank you, Laura XXX