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  Curled Up With a Good Book author interview: Ayelet Waldman on *Love & Other Impossible Pursuits*

*Love and Other Impossible Pursuits* author Ayelet Waldman (photo credit Stephanie Rausser)Interviewer Luan Gaines: What was your inspiration for Love and Other Impossible Pursuits?

I wanted to write about the loss of a child. I lost a baby quite late in a pregnancy -- a very different situation, but a terrible one for us. For years I was writing around this loss, dealing with it in various ways, but I finally confronted it head on in the novel.

Emilia is emotionally raw after the loss of her newborn. What is the purpose of her route through Central Park, avoiding the mothers with children on the way to William's preschool?

She needs the park -- it's her refuge, her solace. But it's full of babies, and every baby reminds her that hers is gone. She retreats to the park, but it's a terribly ambivalent experience because it fails to provide the comfort she needs.

You inhabit the emotions and turmoil of this protagonist. How did you research the grieving and angry young mother?

That was a work of imagination and experience, not research. When I lost my baby, I was in a support group and we were all devastated -- laid waste by loss. And we were all really, really angry.

Emilia's guilt is subtly present throughout the novel, about losing the baby, about her affair with her previously married husband, about her inability to bond with her five-year old stepson, William. How does this excess of guilt block Emilia's recovery from her loss?

I think guilt is consuming. It prevents you from feeling anything else, or rather it refracts your emotions - you see only through the lens of your shame. I felt this way after the loss of my baby -- I chose to end a pregnancy when I found out the baby had genetic abnormalities. I felt a tremendous sense of horror and guilt at what I'd done.

William is an interesting child, brilliant, bluntly honest, curious, sometimes unlikable, at least in Emilia's eyes. Why did you write Jack's son as an exceptional child? Does this intelligence make him even more of a challenge for Emilia?

Well, I wanted to write about the experience we all have but never admit - sometimes kids are just unlikable. They are like adults, individuals. Some people are just unpleasant. But I think William is only unpleasant because he exists for Emilia as a symbol -- of what's keeping Jack from being with her wholeheartedly with all his focus, of the injustice of losing her own baby.

I viewed William through Emilia's perspective from the first page, at least until I got to know him better; then I remembered he was just a little boy. Did you intend to engage the reader's empathy to create a more sympathetic character?

I wanted the reader to discover William as Emilia does. I wanted him to worm his way into your heart the way he does into Emilia's.

Emilia is furious because she lost Isabel; Carolyn is furious because she lost Jack. Besides Jack what do these two women have in common? Are they alike?

I think they are so very different -- but what they have in common is almost a kind of rapaciousness. They are both capable of intense love. They are also both selfish on some level, and only when they each rise above that can they even hope to be their best selves.

Does Emilia's mother's role as stepmother help Emilia in her relationship with Jack? Does her mother's advice interfere with Emilia's judgment?

I think that Emilia's problem has always been her failure to understand her mother. So much of what she does is in opposition to her mother's experience. She is so desperate not to be her mother. Her choices are clouded by that motivating factor.

Ayelet Waldman's *Love and Other Impossible Pursuits*Emilia has an ambivalent relationship with her father and keeps his secrets, painful as it is for her. Why does she feel the need to protect her father?

Because she loves him so much. She is her daddy's girl, and wants on some level to remain that.

Emilia is psychologically fragile, maybe even before the loss of the baby. How does each man in her life contribute to this fragility, Jack, her father, William?

I think she searches for men who satisfy that part of herself, men with whom she can feel safe. But at the same time she sort of shoots herself in the foot, by choosing such complicated situations. William, I think, is her opportunity to grow up.

At first blush, William is a thorn in Emilia's side, a reminder that she has failed to bond, a living child when hers is dead. When and why does Emilia start to see William from a different perspective?

I think it begins that first time she lets him ride in the taxi with no car seat. The first time they have a secret together.

Emilia is basically unable to share her unbearable grief over Isabel, even with Jack; in fact, she keeps all her conflicted emotions to herself. What is the likely outcome of this behavior for Emilia?

Well, disaster, right? I mean, she lies to Jack, to herself, and then she's ultimately hoist on the petard of her own fiction. Wouldn't it be nice if that happened more often, if people's lies contributed to their destruction?

Given the complicated relationship with her father, Emilia's mother's announcement is shocking, sending her running back to Jack after a terrible argument. Why is her mother's open-mindedness so unsettling to Emilia?

Emilia is the one who felt betrayed. She is the one who felt cheated on. If her mother forgives her father, then she has to let go of that feeling of indignation -- or maybe confront and admit it.

Does Emilia eventually realize she is only running from one place to another? What is more important, who she's running to or what she's running from?

I think at some point Emilia figures out that she needs to stop crossing back and forth. She needs to stop and figure out what she wants, and what she can do for herself, and the people she loves.

Ayelet Waldman's *Daughter's Keeper*What does Emilia expect to accomplish in going to the memorial walk? Do her expectations bear fruit?

Healing. Those walks promise companionship and healing. I did one once and felt a certain amount of that. But the promise is an easy one to make, and Emilia is just not ready for it. She can't face what happened to Isabel, so she shakes the foundation of her life until it collapses around her.

Isn't Carolyn making William's adjustment to his altered circumstances more difficult with her overprotectiveness? Please talk about the adult's subtle demands on William to fit into his "new" life.

Oh you know it. Absolutely. William is supposed to be his mother's ally. He is supposed to be a victim of his father's betrayal just like she is. She pushes him into that role very effectively.

Emilia finally realizes that her mother is used to submitting to the power of her daughter's wrath. How significant is this revelation in the context of Emilia's relationships and her need to control circumstances?

I think it's pivotal. I think the moment when Emilia figure out that her mother not only was the person who suffered at the hands of her father, but is the only person entitled to forgive him or not, is crucial to her understanding of responsibility.

Emilia's talk with William on Carolyn's wedding day is pivotal in their relationship. How does Emilia's understanding and acceptance of his dilemma allow William a place in this changing family dynamic?

They both accept that they have a relationship, outside the context of Jack and Carolyn. They have their own independent relationship, and they can help each other. They can never be a mother and a son, but they can be something to each other that is unique.

What would you like your readers to take away from Love and Other Impossible Pursuits?

Love -- all love, maternal, romantic, fraternal -- is a tremendous effort, that it feels insurmountable, but that it's worth it.

Are you working on a new project? If so, can you share anything about it with us?

Yes. I'm writing a novel called Winter's End about a woman who is living a perfect life. Two perfect children, a perfect husband, a perfect house. A perfect SUV. And then it all goes to hell in a handbasket.

Do you have any advice for would-be writers?

If you get your butt in the chair and write a single page every day – 15 minutes, half an hour, however long it takes -- at the end of the year you will have finished a book.

AYELET WALDMAN is the author of Daughter’s Keeper and of the Mommy-Track mystery series. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Believer, Child magazine, and other publications, and she has a regular column on She and her husband, the novelist Michael Chabon, live in Berkeley, California, with their four children.

Contributing reviewer Luan Gaines interviewed Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits (see accompanying review), about her book via email for Luan Gaines/2005.

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