Every Kind of Wanting

The Odyssey's Penelope wove--both literally and metaphorically--tales and tapestries that resembled each other in their dimensionality and heft. It's fitting, then, that Gina Frangello invokes this classic character toward the end of her novel Every Kind of Wanting, during several characters' arduous wait for the birth of a surrogate's baby. Frangello's (A Life in Men) story is also an act of weaving, the warp and weft of lives turned toward the arrival of an infant.

To describe the novel as merely "intricate" understates its messy, spaghetti tangle of stories: Miguel, whose impoverished, violent Venezuelan childhood makes him fearful of fatherhood; Chad, Miguel's privileged and obliviously sweet husband; Chad's sister, Gretchen, who donates her eggs in the midst of a divorce; Lina, Miguel's feminist stripper younger sister; Emily, Miguel's high school friend who agrees to birth the baby; and Nick, Emily's director husband. This cluster of personas may seem exhausting, but Frangello deftly traces their threads without neglecting to develop a single character. Each individual is just that, remarkably true to life in faults, quirks and insecurities.

The novel follows the complicated pregnancy, through duplicitous motives and health scares that lead to a series of climaxes. Toward the end, circumstances begin to unravel, and it's the balance between interior and exterior, tidiness and chaos, that makes Every Kind of Wanting so winsome. The reader sees the imperfections of these collective lives like a great tableau, as rich and human as a hand-hewn tapestry. --Linnie Greene, freelance writer

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