The Possibility of You – Pamela Redmond

Pamela Redmond admits in the  introduction to her novel The Possibility of You that she “had bookclubs in mind” when she wrote the book. And that’s exactly how this novel reads – like a book written to get women talking.

The novel tells the story of three women: Bridget, Billie and Cait and spans several decades. Cait’s present-day  story begins when she falls into bed with another journalist while they are on assignment to cover the story of a missing boy. Later, Cait discovers that she is pregnant and she decides she needs to locate her birth mother.

Bille’s story takes place in the 1970s. Orphaned after the death of her drug-addicted father, she heads to New York City with her best friend, Jupe. There she meets, for the first time, her eccentric and wealthy grandmother, Maude.

Going back even further is the story of Bridget, an Irish immigrant who works in Maude’s house caring for Maude’s young son, Floyd.

That these three women’s stories should be intertwined will come as no surprise to the reader. There isn’t actually anything surprising about that – or even all that original about their stories at all, actually. And I understand that that makes me sound sort of heartless. I think Redmond’s intent was that women of all stripes should find at least one of these women, and their stories of birth and death, to be compelling and relateable. The idea that women make sacrifices and mistakes isn’t riveting in and of itself, unless the characters are somehow sympathetic.

Maude was the most modern of the characters, a famous singer in her day, she married a much older man, had affairs which she openly bragged about and sent her maid, Bridget, to get birth control so she could sleep with her boyfriend without the complications of getting pregnant or having to get married. While she seems thoroughly forward thinking in 1915, at the end of the day, she is reprehensible and selfish.

The Possibility of You seemed like it should have added up to a lot more than the sum of its parts, but for me it just seemed like a cobbled-together story with all the talking points necessary for a good book club evening over a glass of wine.

My book club discussed the book last night and none of us were all that enamoured with it. In fact once we dispensed with the book’s central idea – how do women cope with giving up a child – we veered into a much more lively discussion of local politics. Despite the book’s positive reviews, we just weren’t moved by the novel or its characters.