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The Possibility of Everything

The Possibility of Everything - Hope Edelman I first encountered Hope Edelman ten years ago, when I sought out her book Motherless Daughters: The Legacy of Loss shortly after my own mother died. I was intrigued when I learned she'd written a new memoir from a mother's perspective, and I was quickly drawn into her story.

Edelman discovered that her young daughter had a new imaginary friend when she was bitten on the leg by the child, who blamed it on 'Dodo.' Imaginary friends can be disruptive, but the changes in Maya's personality and behavior since he turned up are particularly unsettling to her mother. Maya becomes increasingly challenging, and Hope's concerns are escalated by a history of mental illness in her family. She is also frustrated by a perceived lack of support; her husband is working incredibly long hours with a start-up, and she still feels isolated and out of place from their recent move to Southern California. Professional advice doesn't seem to help; the only thing that briefly improved the situation was a ritual performed by the family's Nicaraguan nanny, who believes 'Dodo' is a malignant spirit. For that reason, and despite her own deep skepticism, Hope and her husband Uzi arrange to bring Maya to visit a shaman when the family takes a winter vacation to Belize. Uzi is open to 'the possibility of everything;' Hope isn't really, but she's disturbed enough by their situation that she's willing to try something unconventional.

Domestic drama frames this story, but its lies in the family's experiences with a hospitable innkeeping family, their explorations of the rainforest and the ancient ruins of pre-Columbian Central America, and their visits with two healers. Edelman's writing is conversational and full of detail, and her style is open and intimate; I found her voice appealing. I've never been especially curious about visiting Central America, but her descriptions of the sacred Mayan ruins made me think I'd like to see them. She brought me along on a journey with her family, and I never felt like an intruder. She revealed her self-awareness and shared her doubts and failings frankly; I was able to understand and empathize with them, even though I don't think I would have addressed things the same way. (Honestly, I do think she may have been a bit over-reactive to the imaginary friend, but it's probably more that I wouldn't have reacted to it as she did.)

Openness to possibility and ambiguity is a quality I try to cultivate in myself, and I appreciated reading about someone else's struggles with it. While my own marriage and parenting experiences are quite different from Hope Edelman's, many of the challenges and self-questionings are similar. The Possibility of Everything was a satisfying read, and yet it left me with more questions to think about. I think it has potential to provide some excellent book-group discussion.