Desert Isle Keeper
The Impossible Us
It’s been a long time since I’ve read a book so adept at inspiring, sustaining, and rewarding my curiosity as a reader as The Impossible Us.
It’s the story of Nicholas – Nick – a Leeds-based (ghost)writer and Rebecca – Bee – a London-based small business owner (of For Frock’s Sake, a company that turns wedding fashion into anything from a coat for a grieving widow to cushions for a happily married couple) who are brought together by a mis-sent email. They begin an epistolary romance that comes to a pause when they discover a problem – they don’t live in the same world. Bee’s world is our/the reader’s world, while Nick’s is, in the words of the book “Quaker capitalism with a side order of socialism”. His world doesn’t have Tinder but does have Marvel, because apparently there truly is no corner of space or time where it is possible to elude the Avengers and their hundreds-strong entourage. Shocked but undaunted, Bee and Nick resolve to be together – even if they can’t be with the same version of each other. Their lives – and those of their alternate selves – will never be the same.
Much as Bee alters clothes, Lotz uses sharp humor, well-drawn characters, thoughtful plotting and a dash of sci-fi instead of needle and thread to reinvigorate the standard formula of British women’s fiction. You think you’ve met these characters before – the Everygirl heroine with her beleaguered married-with-kids best friend/sister. You think you’ve encountered this storyline before – ‘what if in another life . . . ?’ And you have, but the quality of execution is as different as cheap polyester is from silk.
Nick himself jokes about trying to categorize the story – “seems Quantum Anomaly Fuckup Land has spawned its own romance genre” he says. The Impossible Us artfully splits the difference between HEA romance and heartbreaker fiction/sci-fi. It develops and deepens the main relationship the way the best romances do – all show, no tell – and funnels the high-stakes (life, death, and a love that transcends worlds!) action through two main character PoVs that are observant and wry, ensuring the book never gets bogged down with maudlin, synthetic sentimentality.
The truth about The Impossible Us is this: while you may have read something like it recently, you’ve also probably read nothing like it in a long time.