The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano

Pamela Dorman: Viking. Apr. 2021. 384p. ISBN 9781984880598. $26. F
After several young adult and nonfiction books (including Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention), Freitas debuts an extraordinary, multifaceted novel for adults. Rose Napolitano is a young woman on the precipice of a life-changing decision: whether to have a child. A staunch feminist professor of sociology, Rose has never wanted children. She was explicit about that while dating her husband, Luke, and he proclaimed that he was of the same mind. But a few years into their seemingly happy marriage, his parents start exerting their influence in hopes of getting a grandchild. Luke caves, and eventually Rose agrees to start taking prenatal vitamins; this is where our story starts. And starts again. Because this is no ordinary tale of a young couple verging on parenthood; instead it’s a glimpse into all the different lives Rose could have. There are nine different lives here, some more fully realized than others. Starting one morning in 2006, Rose and Luke fight over the prenatal vitamins, and the outcome of that fight changes depending on the life Rose chooses (for instance, she can choose whether to have a baby, whether to have an extramarital affair, and whether to break up her marriage), until the story’s end in 2025.
VERDICT This is a serious yet fantastical look at relationships, family, and feminism, told in a singular voice; book groups should take note. The closest read-alikes are Life After Life, by Kate Atkinson, and Replay, by Ken Grimwood.
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