Nicole Melanson ~
A Lifetime of Impossible Days is a clever look at the narratives we create for ourselves and others in order to survive trauma. Tabitha Bird defies genres as she weaves together the stories of a woman named Willa at three very different stages of her life: an eight-year-old girl growing up in an abusive household, a thirty-three-year-old woman struggling to break free of her past in order to raise her own family, and a ninety-three-year-old woman searching her memories for answers as her loved ones prepare to move her into aged care.
Told from multiple viewpoints, A Lifetime of Impossible Days achieves that rare thing of being a true ensemble production, striking an exact balance between three distinct voices; all three Willas sound completely authentic and fully developed. Indeed, it is easy to think of each Willa as an independent character, yet as the novel progresses, we begin to see them as complex facets of a single entity, all doing their fair share to propel the story forward.
A Lifetime of Impossible Days is an ambitious work. The disruption in Willa’s saga with the novel shuttling back and forth between different generations requires a certain amount of attention from the reader right from the start. Readers also need to relax any expectations regarding genre as this book liberally employs elements of magic realism and science fiction within a realistic literary fiction framework.
For a reasonably lengthy novel (my copy is 390 pages), A Lifetime of Impossible Days manages to create and sustain a sense of both urgency and inevitability throughout. I felt invested in the outcome for all three Willas and found myself cheering them on as they began to work in concert to confront, then grieve a childhood of horrors in order to free themselves up for an alternative future.
This book is remarkably experimental for a debut, but Bird manages to pull off her aspirations with aplomb. I look forward to seeing what she produces next!