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The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells

Scritto da Andrew Sean Greer

Narrato da Orlagh Cassidy


The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells

Scritto da Andrew Sean Greer

Narrato da Orlagh Cassidy

valutazioni:
3.5/5 (63 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
7 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jun 25, 2013
ISBN:
9780062283511
Formato:
Audiolibro

Descrizione

1985. After the death of her beloved twin brother, Felix, and the breakup with her longtime lover, Nathan, Greta Wells embarks on a radical psychiatric treatment to alleviate her suffocating depression. But the treatment has unexpected effects, and Greta finds herself transported to the lives she might have had if she'd been born in different eras.

During the course of her treatment, Greta cycles between her own time and alternate lives in 1918, where she is a bohemian adulteress, and 1941, which transforms her into a devoted mother and wife. Separated by time and social mores, Greta's three lives are remarkably similar, fraught with familiar tensions and difficult choices. Each reality has its own losses, its own rewards, and each extracts a different price. And the modern Greta learns that her alternate selves are unpredictable, driven by their own desires and needs.

As her final treatment looms, questions arise: What will happen once each Greta learns how to remain in one of the other worlds? Who will choose to stay in which life?

Magically atmospheric, achingly romantic, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells beautifully imagines "what if" and wondrously wrestles with the impossibility of what could be.

Editore:
Pubblicato:
Jun 25, 2013
ISBN:
9780062283511
Formato:
Audiolibro


Informazioni sull'autore

Andrew Sean Greer is the bestselling author of five works of fiction, including The Confessions of Max Tivoli, which was named a Best Book of the Year by both the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune. He is the recipient of the Northern California Book Award, the California Book Award, the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, the O Henry Award for Short Fiction, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Public Library. Greer lives in San Francisco.

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Recensioni dei lettori

  • (2/5)
    I love time travel but just couldn't get into this book.
  • (4/5)
    This was a really interesting book - I enjoyed the premise very much. Mr. Greer's prose can be a bit flowery at times, but the book is well researched and well-written. I confess, I want to know what happens next with Greta(s), Leo, et al.
  • (3/5)
    Greta Wells is an unhappy woman in 1985, having been lost her brother to AIDS and get lover to another woman. Electroshock therapy has the unexpected effect of sending her by turns into two alternate worlds: in 1918, Greta's brother is lonely and closeted, and her lover is her angry, wounded husband freshly returned from war; in 1941, Greta is a housewife and mother, and her husband is loving but still unfaithful.
    Science-fiction and time-travel affects of electroshock aside, this novel was primarily a vibrant reflection on the metaphysical impact of forces beyond our cultural, the way people and events shadow us. It's hard to explain without sounding trite, but this was a dramatization of the ways in which we might be different people if our lives had unfolded differently--and so might those we love be different, too.
  • (4/5)
    I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the premise behind it. Imagine having more than one choice for the life you want to live, all with different challenges jos and sorrows
    Then to be able to choose which suits your strengths and your needs while knowing what you're scraficing to choose that life.
  • (5/5)
    i loved every minute of it and couldn't put it down. Two phrases that stood out were "no ordinary life" and "first love."
  • (3/5)
    Greta Wells has slipped into a depression. Her twin brother, Felix, has recently died from the 1980's AIDS epidemic. Her ten year companion, Nathan, has left her after a long period of intention from her. After antidepressants fail to help, her psychiatrist refers her for ECT. After the initial treatment, she wakes to discover that she is experiencing another Greta's life but in 1918. In this time, she is married to the Nathan who is off to war and Felix is alive. Concurrently, 1918 Greta, who has also been receiving a form of convulsive therapy has jumped to live a 1941 Greta's life where Nathan has returned, Felix is struggling with his sexuality, and she has a son. The 1941 Greta is now inhabiting 1985 Greta. Is this a delusion, dream, or reality? The prevent the novel from becoming too confusing, it is only told from the perspective of the 1985 Greta. It also helps that the chapters are entitled with the respective dates. The Gretas will continue to jump from one time period to the other for the 30 ECT treatments that each experiences. As the 1985 Greta jumps to each time, she views herself from different perspectives learning a bit more about herself each time. As confusing as this novel seems, it was an enjoyable read.
  • (5/5)
    Fun story. Great concept (but with holes). Leaves you wondering how "the other Gretas" think of all if it. This story could have two sequels from their perspectives and I'd read them both. I feel like the audio cuts short at the end of some chapters, but...
  • (2/5)
    I generally love time travel literature, especially if it's well-written. I had heard a lot of great things about this book. I really wanted to like it but to be honest, by about half way through, I began to find the jumping around a bit *bumpy*. I found that either my own mind was wandering and I couldn't keep details straight, or maybe there were just holes in the action. Some things didn't make sense to me, and there came a point when I stopped caring. Oh well...
  • (3/5)
    I found this book to be entertaining and interesting but not one to read with distractions. I really had to keep my mind in this one to keep up with everything going on. It is worth the time and it gives you things to ponder but might put some readers off by the switching back and forth in time.
  • (4/5)
    This very readable novel explore how one would live a different but similar life in a different time and how a glimpse of that experience would change one's current life. The time travel, though treated as an actual result of shock therapy, seems more a construct for examining the variety of possibilities inherent in one's current life.
  • (3/5)
    Past and different lives and time travel seem to be "trending" but I think the penultimate was Kate Atkinson's "Life After Life". This book never grabbed me, and I found the activities of the lead characters in their three lifespans (1918, 1941, 1985)not exciting nor inspirational.
  • (3/5)
    Psychiatric treatment, a clever mechanism to tell a time-travel tale. Reader/narrator, Orlagh Cassidy, kept me interested in the three different twentieth-century time periods and Greta's experiences when transported into and out of those eras.
  • (4/5)
    I really liked this book. Great writing and an interesting premise. Not your typical time travel book. In fact, I don't think I'd call it a "time travel" book. It made me think about how timing and circumstaces shape the people we are and how choices we make have far reaching consequences.
  • (4/5)
    A journey into grief and mental illness.
  • (4/5)
    This was a well written book on an interesting look at the subject of time travel. It took a bit to get use to the rhythm of the story but once it was established it flowed nicely. This wasn't a book that I had to stay up late trying to finish but neither did I avoid it. I enjoyed the time spent reading and would recommend it to somebody who likes life stories and emotions. It is definitely not a thriller or true romance but it was a pleasing story.
  • (4/5)
    An interesting concept: that who we are, how we behave and interact with the people in our lives depends on the external circumstances and era we happen to be born into. Unfortunately, it wore a little thin for me by the end, possibly because I can only seem to deal, in fiction, with things that could really happen.
  • (1/5)
    I wanted to like this book, but it's difficult to do so when I find the main character uninteresting and fairly unlikeable. I also got the sense that the author is in love with the sound and structure of words and sentences. In some books that can be great, but in this one I just kept thinking "oh, here he goes again, writing all these twirly sentences."

    After about 10 pages of wincing and wondering how the heck I'll get through this (it's a book club book), I gave up and downloaded a summary so at least I'll know what they're talking about at book club! Blech.
  • (4/5)
    Sometimes I wonder what my life would have been like had I made different decisions at key points in time. There are many books that take that curiousity and use it as a plot device. But how many of them actually posit multiple universes where the same people live in vastly different time periods? A multitude of Kristens living in different historical times. This oddly intriguing idea is the premise in Andrew Sean Greer's newest novel, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells. In 1985, Greta Wells is clinically depressed after the loss of her beloved twin brother, Felix, to AIDS; the imminent loss of Felix's partner, Alan, also to this terrible plague; and the breakup of her long time relationship with partner Nathan. She tries everything she can to overcome the depression but in the face of failure after failure finally agrees to try electroconvulsive therapy or ECT. Her doctor reassures her that there will be no side effects other than a lessening of the depression and a sleepiness. But after Greta's first procedure, she wakes up to find herself in 1918 rather than 1985. She's still Greta from 1985 though she's inhabiting Greta from 1918's body. In this universe, she's married to Nathan although he's off fighting the last days of WWI and seeing the ravages of the flu epidemic. This Greta is a lonely one who is flirting with a young actor named Leo in her husband's absence and being encouraged in this by her unconventional aunt Ruth. More importantly to Greta, in this universe, her brother Felix is still alive and engaged to a senator's daughter. 1918 Greta is undergoing psychiatric treatment too and 1985 Greta wakes up following the 1918 treatment to discover that she is now in 1941, also still Greta but in still another version of her life. She is married to Nathan in this version as well, and they have a small son named Felix, after his uncle, again still alive, who is also married with an infant. This Greta is undergoing treatment after a terrible accident that rent her world and left her grief stricken. And so with each electrical shock, these three Gretas cycle through each others' lives. The narration follows 1985 Greta throughout her cycle through the different time periods giving her more modern perspective on the lives that the other, earlier Gretas are living. As each of the Gretas are suffering, hence the need for psychiatric intervention, rather than waiting and holding on until the treatments take her back to her own time, 1985 Greta is determined to fix what she sees as being wrong in each of the others' lives. Ostensibly the other Gretas are doing the same thing so that there are three women who feel like they know what to change about the other lives they periodically lead. The greatest of these fixes is that 1985 Greta wants to tell her beloved Felix, in both 1918 and 1941, that he should live as himself, a gay man, regardless of the time period, social strictures, and danger of doing so. But she does not only interfere with Felix's life, she also makes decisions that reverberate with profound results through the other Gretas' lives as well. Greer's vision of multiple concurrent universes is an interesting one. Each of the characters maintains a similar core being in each universe although the ways in which they interact with their society differs and does forge differences in them from one time to another. In essence, they are each many versions of the same person and that makes their choices in each time period fascinating. 1985 Greta is clearly searching for the things that are most important to her as she lives these other lives. Having a more modern character dropped into historical situations allows Greer to not have to focus on anachronistic behavior, because of course she'd act anachronistically. Each era is well written and despite Greta's desire to impose her modern ideas on the people around her in each one, Greer has presented the reality and the social mores of each time quite well. The choice of these particular time periods and the parallels between them are also nicely echoed in the different and yet still recognizable lives of each Greta. The novel is filled with longing on the part of each of the different Gretas and it is very reflective in nature as 1985 Greta seeks to understand and improve her life as well as her alter egos' lives. But the perspective of the other Gretas, aside from small statements made by her colorful Aunt Ruth to the modern Greta each time she returns to her own time, is completely missing from the novel. It would have been fascinating to see the differences in her character wrought by the time periods in which they lived although that inclusion, would, of course, have made this a very different novel. As 1985 Greta becomes more accustomed to the other historical time periods of her life, her impact on each during her visits becomes more involved and intentional. The cyclical nature of the novel keeps the reader turning pages to see how everything is going to play out but there are moments where the pacing stretches like taffy with the reader ready to move on and the character still reflecting. In general though, this is a considered look at the nature of time, fulfillment, and love seen through a unique and creative lens.
  • (5/5)
    Loved this----going back and forth in time and with a result at the end!!! Great story-telling!
  • (2/5)
    Another time travel novel. In this novel time travel is induced by electroshock treatments which lead the protagonist to repeated visits to parallel lives. Bland.
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed every minute of this book. Greta Wells is grieving. She has lost a beloved family member, and can't seem to find a way out of the darkness. It is recommended that she submit to Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT). Although she is reluctant to do so, she gives in. That is when her life changes. She falls asleep the night after the treatment and finds herself in a room she doesn't recognize, with a man that she had loved, but who was no longer in life as she knew it. This is the beginning of an intriguing cycle where Greta finds herself spending time in different versions of her own life, during different times in history. Her family and friends are all there, but there are small but complicating differences. Very enjoyable.
  • (4/5)
    It was a great experience reading this book because while in the middle of reading it I got to read Andrew Sean Greer. Talking to him helped me to focus me on aspects of the book that I was not sure of. He does a great job of using time travel as a way to deal with how we make choice in this world. It goes right to the heart of how the world and how it views us impacts us depending on what era we are living in. I strongly recommend this author no matter what book by him that you read.
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed this book. It was a bit confusing here and there - I had to stop and think several times about which character was in which era. However, that is a minor complaint; the story is funny, sad, bittersweet and the writing is excellent. The characters are well drawn and I especially liked the protagonist's eccentric, lovable aunt.
  • (5/5)

    1 persona l'ha trovata utile

    Colorful description and moving story. Very well narrated

    1 persona l'ha trovata utile

  • (5/5)
    “The Impossible happens once to each of us.”I warn you now, I’m going to gush.The speaker of the above sentiment is the eponymous Greta Wells, the first-person narrator of Andrew Sean Greer’s fourth novel. We are introduced to her as the story opens. It’s New York City, circa 1985, the height of the AIDS crisis. She has just lost her twin brother, Felix—to whom we are introduced in a flashback that occurs not long before his death—at the age of thirty-two. Greta’s grief is almost more than she can bear. When, a few months later, her long-term relationship dissolves, it is more than she can bear. A pervading sadness leads her eventually to the door of Dr. Cerletti, who will administer a course of 25 electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatments over a span of 12 weeks. The doctor warns she “might experience some disorientation afterward.”What Greta experiences is more migration than disorientation. She awakens in a different time, a different life. A different Greta. After her first treatment, Greta finds herself in 1918. World War I is nearly over. Just as she finds herself inhabiting an altered version of herself there, so too she discovers alternate versions of the most important people in her life: Nathan, the lover who left her; her beloved, bohemian aunt, Ruth; and her brother, Felix. Alive. After her second ECT treatment, Greta awakens in yet another version of her life. It is 1941, and America is about to go to war. Here again are versions of those she loves and a new version of herself and the life she might have lived. So the months pass, spending a day or a week rotating through these different lives in 1985, 1918, and 1941, each with its own joys and sorrows. Because, as Greta learns, no life is perfect.That is the set-up of this moving masterpiece of a novel. Mr. Greer is rather brilliant in his choice of time periods. The beginning of a war is juxtaposed with the end of a war. The plague of AIDS is juxtaposed with the Spanish influenza of 1918. Changing social mores are examined, and our protagonist gets to explore the lives she might have known if some of her fondest wishes and greatest fears came true. Ultimately, it is up to her to decide the life she will lead, in an eerie echo of her lover’s words, “I leave it to you.” Greer writes:“A shrew, a wife, a whore. Those seemed to be my choices. I ask any man reading this, how could you decide whether to be a villain, a worker, or a plaything? A man would refuse to choose; a man would have that right. But I had only three worlds to choose from, and which of them was happiness? All I wanted was love. A simple thing, a timeless thing. When men want love they sing for it, or they smile for it, or pay for it. And what do women do? They choose. And their lives are struck like bronze medallions. So tell me, gentlemen, tell me the time and place where it was easy to be a woman?”At times, I found it difficult to believe this novel was written by a man, so convincing was the voice of his female protagonist. I’m not sure how much I related to Greta, but I believed in her—despite a premise that required significant suspension of disbelief. And I didn’t have to love her, because I fell in love with those she loved, none more so than warm and colorful Aunt Ruth, a veritable Mrs. Madrigal of a woman, complete with kimonos. And I was deeply moved by the relationship of these fraternal twins, so eloquently conveyed by the author, a twin himself.There are many echoes in this brief book. Echoes of other novels—though Greer’s tale is unique. I found myself reflecting upon stories as diverse as Ken Grimwood’s Replay, Jack Finney’s Time and Again, and even Baum’s Oz! Greta’s life had echoes of other lives, with lines of dialogue recurring like motifs in entirely different circumstances: “When you were a little girl, was this the woman you dreamed of becoming?”“I understood nothing! But it was a great show!”“If only we just loved who we’re supposed to love.”These are brief quotes, but I want to pull long passages from this novel. Greer’s prose is so beautiful it hurts. Indulge me once more:“They say there are many worlds. All around our own, packed tight as the cells of your heart. Each with its own logic, its own physics, moons, and stars. We cannot go there—we would not survive in most. But there are some, as I have seen, almost exactly like our own—like the fairy worlds my aunt used to tease us with. You make a wish, and another world is formed in which that wish comes true, though you may never see it. And in those other worlds, the places you love are there. Perhaps in one of them, all rights are wronged and life is as you wish it. So what if you found the door? And what if you had the key? Because everyone knows this:That the impossible happens once to each of us.”I was very fortunate to receive a review copy of this extraordinary novel from the publisher in late 2012. I held on to it and made it my very first read of 2013. Will it make my top 10 list for the year? Absolutely. Will it be the single best novel I read in 2013? Very likely. But more than that, this is the book I will be foisting on friends 20 years from now. My love of Greta Wells will last a lifetime.
  • (3/5)

    1 persona l'ha trovata utile

    A few weeks ago I attended a lecture/discussion disguised as a religious service. The topic was free will, and the speaker, quoting Sam Harris extensively, was adamant that there was no such thing. Every decision we make, he argued (or rather, he allowed San Harris to argue for him) is 100% preordained by history, past experiences, and biochemistry.I don't care too much about whether free will actually exists or not except as it relates to how we treat those who wrong us, and in particular how our criminal justice system is organized, but I suppose it's an interesting discussion. I lean toward a hybrid view influenced by process thought ? la Alfred North Whitehead in which our experiences and our physiology and every atom in the universe at this moment and in all of history all limit the choices we have in each moment but that there still remains at least a tiny bit of choice, and that tiny bit of choice adds up over time into something resembling what we consider free will. Reading this novel, I suspect that Andrew Sean Greer---or at least Greta Wells---might have a similar view of free will.The premise of the novel was not unique. There have been many discussions about all possible realities spinning off infinitely and perhaps even more discussion about people being born into the wrong time---an innovator ahead of her time, someone with the principles of a bygone era---but this novel is an interesting narrative take on these ideas. With three Gretas navigating three different time periods with their individual experiences and acquired personality traits from their own time, the novel plays with the idea of Self and how much Self is (or isn't) distinct from our nature and our nurture. Greer adds the extra twist of Greta being able to choose which existence best suits her.This novel was a quick, enjoyable read, and one for which I was willing to spend a day homeschooling and running errands and refereeing arguments on only four hours of sleep. This is the second novel I've read in less than a month that was written by a man from a woman's perspective. I'm not opposed to this (although I am a little uncomfortable with the literary tradition of male authors speaking with the voices of women while women writers weren't being taken seriously regardless of whose voice they spoke with), nor am I opposed to women writing from a male perspective or really anyone writing from anyone's perspective, but I do wonder why Greer chose to write this novel from Greta's perspective. Couldn't a similar novel be written from, say, Felix's perspective (a little earlier in his life, of course) or from Nathan's? What makes a male writer choose to write from the point of view of a female character, especially considering the history of the practice as a sort of literary mansplaining?

    1 persona l'ha trovata utile

  • (4/5)
    As we meet Greta she has just suffered two life altering losses … her long time lover has left her for another woman and her twin brother has died. Needless to say Greta feels like her life is falling apart and quite possibly taking her sanity along. At the suggestion of her doctor she decides on a mild form of electro-shock therapy. The therapy comes with a few unexpected side effects. At the completion of each treatment she finds herself transported to 1918, 1941 and then back to the present. In each incarnation she finds a reality slightly different from her own. On one she is happily married to her now ex-lover and her brother is alive and well. In another her lover is off at war, her brother is alive but her beloved aunt is dead and then back to the present. Each life comes at a cost, and as Greta tries to manipulate each incarnation to her idea of her own perfect world, her alter egos in the other years are doing the same. Can Greta manipulate her own fate and stay in the era she prefers?

    Time travel is always a tricky situation because the author has to make it plausible. Mr. Greer succeeds. Not only that, but he brings each period to life through accurate portrayal of timely events and their impact on Greta. I have heard this book favorably compared to Audrey Neffinger’s The Time Traveler’s Wife. It deserves the comparison as they are both excellent books, but other than the fact that they both deal with time travel impacting their character’s lives they are two completely different stories. Mr. Greer succeeded in making Greta’s story both plausible and enjoyable. Kudos!
  • (3/5)
    The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer
    289 pages

    ★★★

    Greta lives in 1985 and is incredibly depressed about her life, the hope that electroshock therapy will fix her is a last ditch effort that instead sends her to two earlier times (1918 and 1941) as similar but different Gretas. The time change gives it the feel of time travel while the jumping into similar lives with little differences here and there is the feel of parallel universes. These new lives will hand her obstacles and how she handles them is the question, along with where she choose to stay in the end?

    I liked this book but I can’t say I loved it. Perhaps my expectations were just too high after seeing many great reviews. Something just seemed to be missing for me when reading this. The premise was an interesting one but fell short somewhere in there for me. I wasn’t overly fond of any of the characters, including the main character of Greta (not all male authors can write good female characters). The people within the book seemed a little flat to me. I know the whole point was the changes that were made throughout the times but I had trouble really getting into those changes, I just wanted to yell “live the life you have and stop meddling to make others the way you want it!” but alas there wouldn’t be much of a book in that case. I did enjoy it, it kept my attention, it was a quick read and it even managed to get me out of my reading slump but I just didn’t like it as much as I had hoped.
  • (2/5)
    This book was a mess. I wavered between 1 and 2 stars because I felt like I should like it more than I did. In the end I didn’t care about anything in it and there wasn’t a moment where I perked up and thought anything of interest was being said to me.A woman in 1985 is depressed over the death of her gay twin brother and loss of her lover and starts electro shock treatment, which makes her experience alternate lives in 1918 and 1941.There isn’t really a plot, there’s a setup and then a bunch of rambling. There are no spoilers to give because nothing much happens. It sounds like an interesting if not original idea, but if you’ve read the blurb you’ve read the book. Seemingly a third of the book is the main character repeating the setting and the premise (which still doesn’t make much sense and isn’t really so complicated that the reader needs it spoon fed to them repeatedly) and going over what just happened, what’s going to happen, and what might happen. Greta seems to take all of this in stride, figures it out immediately and seems to know what will happen next for reasons that are not clear. There is not even the tiniest bit of mystery, or story unfolding in this book, it is all spelled out repeatedly and immediately. At least another third of the book is flowery, trite, and frankly terrible musings on life, love, and whatever. I’ve sometimes picked up books and been confused because I didn’t realize the genre I was reading. This happens a lot with ebooks because I don’t have the clues the physical book would give. At some point I stopped and thought "Is this like a Harlequin Romance or something?" It certainly reads like one, but I’m not afraid of Chick Lit or even Romance novels and frankly most of the ones I’ve read were much better written.That leaves maybe a third of the book for plot. Or plot-ish type stuff. It’s not really time travel because all of Greta’s friends, family, and even acquaintances are present in the other worlds she visits. Alternate universes? Everything is exactly the same as our world in the other places she visits, as far as we can tell, except for Greta and her friends. I say "as far as we can tell" because the historical settings are really glossed over cheap window dressing and don’t add much. So why do different time periods at all if it’s really just alternate worlds? Is it all in her head? It would seem the most likely conclusion, but there is no hint of it and everything is played totally straight even though it doesn’t make much sense. That would be fine if there was a payoff, but this is a soap opera.The characters are cardboard cutouts. All the descriptions and rambling about feelings and such gave me no feel for the people or places. Greta is self absorbed and shallow, a description that also fits the book. We know she’s depressed because she tells us so. Her 1918 husband is not as good as his counterparts because we are told this. We are told "in this world X is good, in this one X is bad" for various things without being shown why. Greta is sanctimonious in ways the would make you tell her to STFU and mind her own business in 2015, much less 1985, 1941, or 1918, with no sense of historical perspective in her, or the book for that matter. Her actions make little sense, although the other characters mostly do, but she repeatedly tries to change them anyway. In the end there is very little insight to anything, nothing much learned by us or Greta, and I seemed to have missed the point altogether. Since all my books are packed and gone for the upcoming move I’ve been reading mostly ebooks. Sometimes you don’t know what you’re getting into and I’ve bought some things I shouldn’t have, but there are a lot of good reviews for this book out there. Baffling.
  • (4/5)
    A funny combination of a very slight-feeling book and a some serious topics, mainly death, loss, and plague years (the Spanish flu in 1918, AIDS in 1985, and a bunch of young men gearing up to go off to war in 1942). Greer writes nicely, and though in the end it came off a little simple given the subject matter, it was well written and engaging—and while I haven't lived through any of the other time periods, he surely nailed the terrible feeling of devastation in downtown New York's gay community in 1985.