Ooh – finally! My first five-star book of the year!

The Nine Lives Of Rose Napolitano by Donna Freitas is like Sliding Doors on steroids. When Rose and her husband Luke got married, they were on the same page about kids – neither of them wanted to be parents. But over time, Luke changed his mind, and began pressuring Rose to consider getting pregnant. One morning, they have a fight because Luke discovers that Rose has not been taking her prenatal vitamins regularly. The fight ultimately leads to nine different outcomes: Rose acquiesces and ultimately gets pregnant; Rose gets pregnant but it leads to miscarriage; Rose and Luke decide to divorce; etc. Freitas tells the story of each of Rose’s nine lives, sometimes starting back at the beginning to reset the action, sometimes allowing the lives to overlap, so that at the end the reader is left with a tapestry weaving all the alternatives together.

Why I picked it up: I couldn’t resist this premise.

The Nine Lives Of Rose Napolitano is about choice and agency. Must Rose compromise to make Luke happy? If she ends up loving Addie, the daughter she has in some of the chapters, does that mean she was wrong to have resisted motherhood? Why are women expected to become mothers and made to feel selfish or inferior if they choose not to? Rose makes different choices in each of the chapters, but she is consistent in her desires. Her happiness throughout the novel depends on whether she’s living her life for herself or for someone else, a strong feminist message that underpins the whole book. I loved the way Freitas structured the novel, with some people appearing in different times in Rose’s lives, depending on which life she was leading. I do recommend taking notes – I listed the nine lives in the back of the book and filled in the details along the way so that I could keep track of which life was which. I think it would be confusing to read it without notes, and I would recommend not doing this one on audio for the same reason.

I flew through The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano. Freitas’ dialogue is sharp and realistic, with characters acting and talking like real people. I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen to Rose next, or which Rose I’d find when I picked the book up. I even teared up in a few places, which never happens to me with books. Oh, I just loved this book. So glad I read it.

The Nine Lives of Rose Napolitano was the 31st book of 2021.