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.
“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.