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The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano
Cover of The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano
The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano
A Novel
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A deeply moving novel about a woman who thought she never wanted to be a mother—and the many ways that life can surprise us“An ode to possibility” — The Washington PostRose...
A deeply moving novel about a woman who thought she never wanted to be a mother—and the many ways that life can surprise us“An ode to possibility” — The Washington PostRose...
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  • A deeply moving novel about a woman who thought she never wanted to be a motherand the many ways that life can surprise us

    “An ode to possibility” — The Washington Post

    Rose Napolitano is fighting with her husband, Luke, about prenatal vitamins. She promised she'd take them, but didn't. He promised before they got married that he'd never want children, but now he's changed his mind. Their marriage has come to rest on this one question: Can Rose find it in herself to become a mother? Rose is a successful professor and academic. She's never wanted to have a child. The fight ends, and with it their marriage.

    But then, Rose has a fight with Luke about the vitamins—again. This time the fight goes slightly differently, and so does Rose's future as she grapples with whether she can indeed give up the one thing she thought she knew about herself. Can she reimagine her life in a completely new way? That reimagining plays out again and again in each of Rose's nine lives, just as it does for each of us as we grow into adulthood. What are the consequences of our biggest choices? How would life change if we let go of our preconceived ideas of ourselves and became someone completely new? Rose Napolitano's experience of choosing and then choosing again shows us in an utterly compelling way what it means, literally, to reinvent a life and, sometimes, become a different kind of woman than we ever imagined.

    A stunning novel about love, loss, betrayal, divorce, death, a woman's career and her identity, The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano is about finding one's way into a future that wasn't the future one planned, and the ways that fate intercedes when we least expect it.

Excerpts-

  • From the book M A R C H  2 , 2 0 0 8

    Rose,  Life 3
     
     
    She is beautiful.
    I am awed by her perfection. The heady scent of her skin. “Addie,” I sigh. “Adelaide,” I try again, a faint whisper in the
    sterile air. “Adelaide Luz.”
    I raise her little head to my nose and inhale, long and needy, ignor‑ ing the sharp pain in my abdomen. I smile as I admire the soft fuzz of her hair.
    How I resisted having this little being in my arms! Before the preg‑ nancy and the birth, I would rage about the pressure to have a child— to Luke, to Mom, to Jill, to whoever would listen. The stranger next to me on the subway, the unsuspecting man on the sidewalk. I was just. So. Angry.
    But now?
    The snow falls in wet clumps against the windowpanes of the hos‑ pital room, everything around me shades of gray in dim light. I inch to the left, shift into a better position. The temperature drops and the snow turns papery, thick and dry like paste. She sleeps.
    My eyes are hers.
    “How could I not have wanted you?” I whisper into her tiny, curling ear, a pearly shell. “How could there be a life where you and I never met? If there is such a life, I wouldn’t want to live it.”
    Her eyelids twitch, pale, veined, transparent, her nose and mouth and forehead scrunching.
    “Did you hear what I said, sweet girl? You should only listen to the second part, about how your mother wouldn’t want a life without you. That’s all you need to know.”


    One
     
    A U G U S T  1 5 , 2 0 0 6

    Rose,  Life 1
     
    Luke is standing on my side of the bed. He never goes to my side of the bed. In his hand is a bottle of prenatal vitamins. He holds it up. He shakes it, a plastic rattle.
    The sound is heavy and dull because it is full. This is the problem.
    “You promised,” he says, even and slow. Uh‑oh. I am in trouble.
    “Sometimes I forget to take them,” I admit.
    He shakes the bottle again, a maraca in a minor key. “Sometimes?” The light through the curtains forms a halo around Luke’s upper body, the hand held high with the offending object outlined by the sun and glowing.
    I am in the doorway of our room, on my way to pull clothes from the drawers and the closet. Mundane things. Underwear. Socks. A top and a pair of jeans. Like any other morning. I would have folded the clothing across one arm and carried it to the bathroom so I could shower and change. Instead I stop, cross my arms over my chest, the heart inside it mangled with hurt and anger. “Did you count them, Luke?” My question is a cold snap in the humid August air.
    “So what if I did, Rose? What if I did count them? Can you blame me?”
    I turn my back on him, go to open the long drawer that contains underwear, bras, slips, camisoles, riffle through my things, disrupting the order of my clothing, everything growing more and more out of control. My heart starts pounding.
    “You promised me,” Luke says.
    I grab a pair of my granniest underwear. I want to scream. “Like promises mean anything in this marriage.”
    “That’s not fair.” “It’s perfectly fair.” “Rose—”
    “So I didn’t take the pills! I don’t want a baby. I never wanted a baby and I don’t want one now and I won’t want one ever and you knew that before we got engaged! I told you a thousand times! I’ve told you a million times since!”
    “You said you’d take the...

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    Starred review from February 1, 2021
    Reminiscent of Kate Atkinson's Life After Life or the movie Sliding Doors, Freitas' novel explores nine (but certainly not all) possible outcomes when a woman who has never wanted children marries a man who gradually decides he does. Each of the nine "takes" begins with the same 2006 argument: Luke, a photographer, discovers Rose, a sociologist, is not taking the prenatal vitamins she'd agreed to. How the couple's argument progresses--to have a baby or not--resolves differently with each telling. In carefully interwoven segments, which multiply as one choice leads to others, events sometimes diverge, sometimes overlap. In some versions Rose has a baby, in others she doesn't. In some cases Luke behaves badly, in some Rose does. Friends and relatives maintain their underlying roles whether they are Rose's or Luke's parents, lovers for whom Rose or Luke may or may not leave the marriage, a child named Addie who may or may not be born. Luke always has one side of the argument, but the novel belongs to Rose, a feminist academic, and is told from her viewpoint. Although the plotlines continue until 2025, her perspective has a decidedly pre-2020 feel. Rose's world is full of White professionally and educationally privileged millennial women who talk in philosophical terms about feminism and their battle to maintain control over their lives yet are unapologetically oblivious to real-world politics and suffering. Read today, following the maze of numbered takes becomes an addictive game, highly literate escapism, like watching The Queen's Gambit. Which is not to say the novel shies away from difficult issues surrounding the position of motherhood in women's lives. Rose complains she is "damned if she didn't become a mother and damned if she does become one, too." In one of her lives she realizes that while she doesn't like motherhood, she loves her child. And in every version, Rose and her own mother's relationship rings lovingly, if painfully, true. Highly readable and provocative.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    March 1, 2021
    Rose Napolitano knew she didn't want to have children. At least, that version of Rose was sure. Novelist and nonfiction author Freitas (Consent, 2019) outlines nine versions of Rose's adult years, all starting with the character's confrontation with her husband over a full bottle of prenatal vitamins and diverging wildly from there. Some versions of Rose's life include Addie, Rose's daughter, while others highlight the challenges of abortion, marital infidelity, illness, and divorce. Instead of weighing the value of one timeline against the other, Freitas weaves difficult circumstances in with the good, setting the freedom of childless life against the monotony of infant caretaking, the heartbreak of divorce against the thrill of a new lover, the all-encompassing love for a newborn against the resentment for a partner unwilling to do their share. As the novel continues, some versions of Rose's lives come to an end, while others begin anew. Thoughtfully introducing one version at a time while keeping Rose's lives numbered, Freitas walks readers through the fullest picture of one woman's life-changing decisions. Fans of Kate Atkinson's Life after Life (2013), Liane Moriarty's What Alice Forgot (2011), and the film Sliding Doors will find themselves happily lost in this charming, heartfelt, thought-provoking novel.

    COPYRIGHT(2021) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    Starred review from April 16, 2021

    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.--Stacy Alesi, Eugene M. & Christine E. Lynn Lib., Lynn Univ., Boca Raton, FL

    Copyright 2021 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano
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