Andrew Sean Greer has been fiddling with the hands on his watch again. His novels are often preoccupied with how we interact with time. That immensely clever bestseller “The Confessions of Max Tivoli” featured a 70-year-old narrator who aged backward. His debut novel, “The Path of Minor Planets,” synchronized a series of relationships to the cycles of a comet. And now comes another high-concept story, “The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells,” or, as I like to think of it, “The Time Traveler’s Strife.”
The book opens in New York in 1985, but don’t sit down — we won’t be here long. Abandoned by her partner and devastated by the death of her gay twin brother, Greta Wells pursues every treatment she can think of to raise her spirits. Under the advice of a flamboyant aunt who lives in the downstairs apartment, Greta runs through antidepressants from Ambivalon to zimelidine. She tries acupressure, yoga, pot, jogging, colonics, bran, etc., but nothing can “shake the nightmare” of her grief. “How I longed to live in any time but this one,” she says just before visiting Dr. Cerletti to receive electroconvulsive therapy.