Impossible Dreams
by Patricia Rice, contemporary (2000)
Ivy, $6.50, ISBN 0-449-00601-8


Spoilers are present in this review

Single father Axell Holm runs the local bar in Wadeville. He meets New Age schoolteacher and single mom (with another on its way) Maya Alyssum when the local council where he is a member of tries to shut down her curio shop. They want to build a shopping center on its place. Maya is staying put. When her house gets torched down, however, she finds herself homeless.

Axell has a chronically shy daughter who comes alive only at Maya's after-school program. Hence Axell offers her a place to stay at his bungalow in return for her nannyship of Constance. But someone is trying to ruin both their lives.

Now, I'm suffering from a bad bout of flu while reading Impossible Dreams, and the first few chapters are so delightful that I just sit back, turn up Erykah Badu on the CD, and prepare to have the flu blues chased away.

Indeed, I expect this book to be a keeper, because Axell Holm and Maya Alyssum are two of the most fascinating characters I've ever read in a long time. Especially Maya, a survivor of the lousy social welfare services, who hides her loneliness behind an airy-fairy facade. She genuinely craves a family after all those years of going in and out of foster homes, and her dream is to own a school where she can teach children of foster homes to laugh and to feel loved. And best of all, she is a survivor. No whining or self pity from this woman - she faces all problems in her life chin up.

Axell too has baggages - his wife died after an argument with him and now he feels guilty. His daughter won't speak to him, and he feels an utter failure as a father and as a human being. How can I not go Awww at such a man, especially where he obviously loves his daughter? Axell craves order, but he slowly unbends when Maya moves in with her nephew Mattie, a cat, and lots of chaos. It is a joy watching Maya and Axell interact and find love, and the children are adorable.

But the longer I am into the story, the more the problems faced by our two main characters pile up until the whole story gets bogged down by melodrama. The internal emotional conflicts faced by these two are enough for a book, but then comes external problems as if they are running out of fashion.

Let's review his problems:
1. His mother-in-law wants custody of Constance.
2. Constance may not even be his daughter.
3. The mayor is setting him up for a drug bust because he refuses to cooperate in the scheme to make Maya move out
4. Her daughter won't talk to him.
5. He doesn't feel capable of handling a relationship.

And her problems:
1. She's homeless and has no money.
2. Mattie is chronically shy.
3. Her former addict/dealer sister is in jail and may soon be coming out. Would she want Mattie back?
4. The father of her baby appears back in her life and threatens to file for custody of the baby.
5. Someone is burning her place down.
6. She is considered a white trash in the town.

After a while I want to scream at these problems to stop coming. Make it stop, oh god make it stop - these are nice people! I want to tell the author. When Maya and her sister are implicated in a murder, I've had enough. If I have my strength, I'd probably use this book as a baseball.

Great characters, but egads, the external conflicts! What is the author thinking? If you'll excuse me, I have to go lie down. I feel even more ill than when I first started ID. Poor Maya and Axell. Poor me.

Rating: 50


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