Book Talk “We All Want Impossible Things” Author Catherine Newman

Catherine Newman is the author of “We All Want Impossible Things,” which was published in November 2022.

“We All Want Impossible Things,” has been said to be a very sad book to read. That’s no surprise as the story follows  Edi, who is put in hospice after a diagnosis of ovarian cancer. Edi’s hospice care is in a city away from her family, and her main caretaker becomes her best friend, Ash.

This duo of friends have lived through over 42 years of friendship. They’ve been by each other’s side through marriages, infertility, childbirth, and life’s ups and downs. They are more like sisters than just friends and their families are intertwined and closely knit together.

Newman, who is 54 and living in Amherst, Massachusetts wrote this novel as a love letter to her best friend. Though she has written many articles for magazine and various children’s books, this is her debut novel written for adults.

My best friend of my whole life died 8 years ago. The friendship between Ash and Edi is entirely—and I mean ENTIRELY—lifted from life, from that friendship.

“We All Want Impossible Things” doesn’t only cover the difficulties and emotional strain of caring for a loved one in hospice, but also the nuances of everyday life. As Ash helps with Edi’s care and visits her daily, she also has a lot going on at home. Mostly with her ex-ish husband, her two daughters, and a revolving door of interesting lovers.

As the story unfolds Edi and Ash not only reminisce on their lifetime of friendship, but also make plans for her funeral speech (Edi has suggestions for Ash), the quest for Edi’s perfect cake—her dying wish, and the heartache of saying goodbye. Goodbye to your husband, brother, your son, your friends, and loved ones.

This novel is also a beautiful tribute to caretakers everywhere. from those who help with the daily care of loved ones, to those who drop in to entertain and ease the strain on their mental health, and the community of family and friends that stand by someone’s side during their last moments of life.


Where did the inspiration for this book come from?Is this novel based on your personal experiences?Are your characters based on real people? We loved the chemistry between Edi and Ash.

I’m going to answer those questions all at once! My best friend of my whole life (we met before kindergarten) died 8 years ago. The friendship between Ash and Edi is entirely—and I mean ENTIRELY—lifted from life, from that friendship. There are aspects of the book that are fictional, but the details of their history and the kinds of conversations they have are fully autobiographical. Most of the book’s characters are very true to life, including Jonah and Jude (Edi’s brother and husband), Ash’s husband Honey and daughter Belle, and Ash’s lovely, wonderful, slightly annoying parents. Also lots of the hospice characters are composites of real people. I have volunteered in a hospice for the past 3 years, and I’ve met loads of wonderful folks there.


How do you select the names of your characters?

There are a lot of names that start with J, and I’ve heard that this is very confusing, and I kind of wish I hadn’t done it that way. I wanted it to be a little blurry and strange, but I think it might be kind of distractingly so. Also, I wanted the faint echo between Ash’s daughter Jules and Edi’s husband Judah. I wanted there to be some solid Jewish names in there too. Ash for the main character just felt right to me. She’s so, kind of. . . burnt out.

Catherine Newman.
Can you tell us a little about your writing process? How do you work on making an idea into a book? When is your favorite time of day and place to write?
I make lots and lots of notes. Like, for years. And then I try to figure out how the story works. With somebody dying, there’s a kind of built-in arc, but I had to figure out what Ash’s story was, since this is really a story about her. I like to write at my kitchen table in the morning, heavily buzzed on caffeine and with a massive cat in my lap. If I can take a nice, brisk walk first, that’s even better.

Can you share a little bit about the character of Ash? I loved how imperfect she was. I couldn’t imagine the random “relationship” scenes while having a friend in hospice be possible. Can you tell us how you came up with these nuances?​
I relate a lot to Ash’s messiness. And what she calls her “falling in love disorder” was actually the thing I always knew I was going to write about. There’s something for me about profound loss and grief that just obliterates boundaries, and I wanted to try to capture that feeling in a book.

If Newman's book was a Taylor Swift outfit. (Photo courtesy of Catherine Newman; photo credit: Taylorswift_books.)
What did you hope to accomplish with the publishing of this novel?
Well, I did need to make some money, ha ha ha. But also? I think there’s not historically been very explicit writing about death in our culture, and I was hoping to offer some real scenes of what it’s like. But I also wanted to make people laugh. And it’s definitely a long love letter to my friend.

Is novel writing your full-time career or do you do something else, if so, what?
Writing is my main career, though this is my first adult novel. I have written a ton (A TON!) for magazines and newspapers and websites—about parenting and food and money and mending. I mean, really, everything! I also have a part-time administrative job at a college, which is how we have health-insurance, since my husband is also self-employed as a massage therapist. (Yes, it is wonderful to have a massage therapist for a husband! Ha ha ha.)

Are you currently working on another novel? If so, can you tell us anything about it yet? Do you want to publish more books?
I am! I’m writing a novel that *seems* like it’s about a family vacation on Cape Cod but is really about what it’s like to live in a body that goes through so much reproductive mayhem: sex, pregnancies, loss, nursing, children, menopause. . .  But also, spending time with parents and grown kids on the beach!

"We All Want Impossible Things" by Catherine Newman. (Photo courtesy of Catherine Newman.)
Before I read “We All Want Impossible Things” I was afraid to dive in because I had heard from so many that it was heartbreakingly sad. What advice or tips would you give to a reader about to pick up your book?
Well, I know it’s sad—it really is—but I’ve also heard that it’s also funny and loving and, weirdly, kind of hopeful.

If you want to follow Catherine Newman, you can check her out on Instagram at @catherinenewman or check out her website at

And, if you want to know more about this beautiful story, check out our full book review here.

Have you read “We All Want Impossible Things” If so, let us know what you think in the comments below. If you haven’t, make sure to add it to your TBR right away and we promise you won’t regret it because it’s definitely a very moving read.

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