Book Review: “Impossible” by Sarah Lotz

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Doing a review for this book that does it just is, well… impossible.

How I would love to stop my review there, but Amazon and other sites require a certain number of words, so I will endeavour to say more.

One of the challenges with doing a review for Impossible (also know as The Impossible Us) is that I always try to avoid spoilers in relation to key aspects of the story. Doing so with this book is particularly challenging.

Usually when I do reviews, I like to think not just about how well written the book is, but also what I got out of it. Sometimes that can be merely entertainment, but there are also those books that help you think about a range of issues. Impossible is one of those latter books, while also being entertaining.

The timing of reading Impossible in some ways could not have been better for me. Without giving spoilers away, Impossible revolves around a relationship that develops between two people through sending messages. This was useful for me as, over the past few weeks, I have been working on my next novel, and one of the characters in that book has such a relationship. In my book, the relationship is purely a friendship – at least that’s how it is planned at the moment as I cannot imagine writing a love story. Having said that, I’m not sure that, based on chats I have had with her during the times that I have met her, Sarah could have imagined writing a romantic story until she worked on this one.

Perhaps due to my own interest in the topic from an author’s perspective, I overly connected with Impossible and its characters. But it also meant that I could easily identify with some of the issues being discussed – as they were things that I was thinking about already. What I now need to convey is some of powerful emotions that Sarah manages to do in Impossible when I do my own writing. As I was reading the paperback version (and it’s a very big book) it would take me time to find exact passages to cite, but I remember and being able to appreciate the range of feelings that the protagonists felt; the excitement and anticipation when seeing the message icon for an unread message, the fun of reading the message and interacting (which is different, and sometimes easier, than face-to-face interactions) with the other person, even the excitement over the notification that the other person is writing at that moment can bring (knowing that in that moment you are, in some way, connected to them wherever they are), but also the despair and feelings of complete sadness and emptiness when communications end. Not all of these feelings get expressed throughout Impossible, at least not every time. There’s no need – we know and understand, because we experience the same things in our lives.

While Impossible is very different to what will happen in my novel so I don’t need to worry about the book overly-influencing that section of my book, it has given me further food for thought about how I handle the sections about messaging with a friend, and how that relationship should be framed.

As noted, based on my chats with Sarah, I don’t think either of us could have imagined her writing a book such of this given what her other books have been like to date (see The Three, Day Four, and The White Road). Having said that, there are some parts that felt very natural and fitting with Sarah’s style – for example, the way in which communications are presented (which even sometimes include emoji), reminds me of some of how text was presented in The Three – and I do love it how Sarah will try to push the limits of how things can be presented in a book to help with the authentic feel of how things would have happened if it were real life, or how it could be shown on TV or in a film.

Another thing that is surprising about this book is that it takes head-on one of the things that I know Sarah, like many of us, finds the greatest challenge when writing a book… the internet and mobile communications. The access to information and communication is a constant challenge in any books set after around the mid-1990s, for there will be many situations where readers can justly ask ‘why don’t they just call X?’ or ‘why don’t they check these details on Google?’, for example. The other books by Sarah that I have read have often come up with clever ways to get around this issue. Impossible, on the other hand, would not exist if it were not for the internet and mobile communications.

I really enjoyed Impossible and was frustrated that I couldn’t finish before a recent trip away. In fact, it is such a ‘confliction’ book (that is one where you are conflicting between want to know what happens, but also not wanting it to ever end) that I nearly bought the eBook so that I could continue reading during my flights, but instead waited until I got back to finish it. I’m not sure if this was the right thing to do. By this time, perhaps due to the way I felt connected to the text, it was starting to mess with my head (not completely unusual with a book by Sarah) and it may have been better to get to the conclusion. As it was, when I got to the conclusion, again due to aspects beyond the book, it left me in tears.

One issue that kept coming up through the book was ‘nature verses nurture’. I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but this has also come up in the book that I am reading at the moment. I think this is something that I will need to reflect on further as I can see now that it, without realising it, ties in with the person conducting the mobile communications in my next novel.

Having taken an extra week to calm down and reflect about Impossible, I can safely say that it is now my favourite book ever (replacing Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano). I should probably do a post about my favourite books one day, since I have already done such lists for films, for example.

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