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The Possible World

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Member Reviews

Thank you Netgalley and publishers for providing an ARC of this title in exchange for an honest opinion.  What a wonderful novel The Possible World is!  This story unfolds through the perspectives of three narrators:  Lucy, and overworked trauma doctor, Clare, a reclusive elderly woman with no family recording her life story on cassette tape while in a nursing home, and Ben/Leo, an 11 year old boy who is witness to a brutal mass murder that included his mother, and is now living on a psych ward as those in charge try to decide what is best for him.  All three harbor pain and darkness in their lives and their stories come together in the most satisfying way.  This novel is beautifully written...highly recommended!
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Thank you to NetGalley and Scribner for an E-arc of this title in exchange for my honest review.  Wow.  I stayed up reading this book long into the night, knowing it would be worth being tired the next day.  I love an alternating narration, and The Possible World tells the story from 3 points of view, one of whom is a young child.  This seems like it would be difficult to do well, but Schwartz has done just that.  A young boy survives a terrible crime, and his story soon gets woven with the past, with a friend of his mom's, and with their back stories.  I don't want to give any spoilers,  I will say this story eloquently and beautifully weaves the stories together for such an interesting book.  This is a book that was bittersweet for me...I wanted to finish it, yet I wish I could have savored it even more.  This one is highly recommended.
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Thank you to Scribner and NetGalley for allowing me to read an advance copy of Liese O’Halloran Schwarz’s The Possible World, A Novel.  The rating and review are my own thoughts and opinions, and have not been influenced by receiving this book to read.

The Possible World is a story narrated from 3 points of view.  Ben - a young child who survives the frightful trauma of witnessing a murder scene and is left with no memory, Lucy - the ER doctor who meets Ben upon intake into the hospital, and Clare - a resident of an elder care facility with a secret past she’s kept long buried.  Each storyline is beautifully executed, and expertly interwoven. 

Clare’s story, because it spans nearly 100 yers, is a tale rich with experiences and critical choices.  We learn about her young life just before the Great Depression, and the path she chose was not an easy one, but it was hers alone and she owned it.

Ben’s sorrowful story is captivating as he struggles to make sense of the snippets he begins to recall after his trauma.  Scared, confused, and lonely, he undergoes hypnosis as everyone around him try to piece together who he is, and why he thinks he’s Leo and not Ben.

Lucy is an extremely competent ER doctor managing the clinical environment, but is adrift when it comes taking control of her personal life.  Her husband is the type you just cannot like even though she wants it to work out.

This is a really, really good story that’s beautifully written.  The transitions between the POVs are very well done.  Time spent reading this book is very satisfying.  Not because of how it ends, but because of how it’s told.
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The Possible World is a captivating novel with characters that reached out to me from the very beginning.  It was written with a deft hand.  I enjoyed the author's writing and her observances of people and culture across the years.  I'll look for more of her work.  Clair, Lucy and Ben will stay with me for a long time, I think.
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5 stars

I read the Kindle Edition.

Leo (as he prefers to be known when his real name is Ben), is a young boy, perhaps five or six, who is the sole survivor of a horrific mass murder. He turns out to be the young son of another resident at the hospital with whom Lucy was acquainted whose name was Karen. Clare is nearly one hundred-years old and living in a care center. She is much more on the ball than the home attendants and other residents think she is, although she prefers to be alone with her memories and her books. Lucy Cole is an emergency room doctor who evaluates the boy and carries a heavy load in the ER. This story is told from the points of view of these three people. 

Clare makes a truce of sorts with Gloria. Gloria, a former newspaper reporter, is a newcomer to the home and is opinionated. At first Clare didn’t want to be around her, never mind that her room was next to Clare’s. They both love books. She decides she wants to record her memories and Gloria assists her. Clare begins her story.

Leo meets with a psychologist who hypnotizes him and therein Leo tells a very intriguing story. Not about the murders, but about a boy named Leo who is taken into a boys’ home run by monks. 

Lucy goes to the place where Leo lives now and brings him toys. They go for a walk after the nurse tells her to be sure to call him Ben. The psychologist believes he may have DID – Dissociative Identity Disorder. While eating ice cream and walking about, Leo tells Lucy he wants to go “back to Clare.” This is where he lived.  Lucy is also living with a private pain. Her husband no longer wants to live together. She still loves him, but moves out. 

This is a beautiful story. It winds its way through Clare’s nearly one hundred years – though the Great Depression, through Viet Nam, all the way to the present. It is Clare’s story, Leo’s story and Lucy’s story. It is made of memories and ghosts of the past as well as people of the present. It is filled with nostalgia, sadness, pain but most of all, it is a love story. Not romantic love, but rather the bonds of being human and how our past shapes our present. The blurb on NetGalley said that, “something stronger than fate is working to bring them together.” Indeed.

This is a remarkable well written and plotted novel. The author’s use of words could be compared to music. It’s simply beautiful.  The timeline transitions were so well done that the reader hardly notices them flowing from one into another. I am looking forward to reading more of Ms. Schwarz’ work. 

I want to thank NetGalley and Scribner for forwarding to me a copy of this most remarkable book to read and enjoy.
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