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September 14, 2016

Book Notes - Gina Frangello "Every Kind of Wanting"

Every Kind of Wanting

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Lauren Groff, T.C. Boyle, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, Aimee Bender, Jesmyn Ward, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Gina Frangello's second novel Every Kind of Wanting is a stunning look at contemporary extended family.

The Millions wrote of the book:

"Each unhappy family is unhappy in it's own way, but the families in Frangello's latest novel are truly in a category all their own. Every Kind of Wanting maps the intersection of four Chicago couples as they fall into an impressively ambitious fertility scheme in the hopes of raising a "community baby." But first there are family secrets to reveal, abusive pasts to decipher, and dangerous decisions to make. If it sounds complicated, well, it is, but behind all the potential melodrama is a story that takes a serious look at race, class, sexuality, and loyalty — in short, at the new American family."

In her own words, here is Gina Frangello's Book Notes music playlist for her novel Every Kind of Wanting:

Every Kind of Wanting is a novel told through five characters' perspectives…though their points of view may all be being imagined by one narrator, Lina, depending on how you read the book.

When I'm deep in writing a novel, pretty much every song on the radio or on my phone reminds me of someone from that particular book. Here are some of the ones that consistently came up as embodying certain characters and their situations…


Angelina (Lina) Guerra is thirty, twice-divorced, bisexual, a voracious reader and a former stripper. Lina is in recovery and has bipolar, and tends to think of herself as a "wrecking ball." In a waning relationship with her strongly feminist, sex-positive former English professor, Lina loves Kate Braverman, Neruda and Lucy Grealy, and is an "outsider" in the central plot of the novel, which involves three couples coming together (or failing to come together, as the case may be) to have a "community baby" through a gestational surrogacy. Lina's narration often takes the form of an epistolary apology to her former lover, Nick, the surrogate's husband.

"The Moth," Aimee Man
"So Much Wine," The Handsome Family
"Born to Die," Lana Del Rey
"In Praise of the Fucked-Up Girl," The Urinals


Lina's older brother (sort of), Miguel Guerra is one of the two aspiring fathers in the community baby plan. Miguel was chronically abused by his own father, who died under mysterious circumstances around the time of Lina's birth. Miguel struggles, throughout the novel, with what it means to become a father when the models of fatherhood in his life have been so destructive…but even more acutely, he struggles with what it means to want something—and someone—badly, and to dare to take emotional risks to attain his desires, rather than numbing out and detaching in order to shield himself from disappointment and heartache.

"Hurt," Johnny Cash
"Indifference," Pearl Jam
"The Leaning Tree," Sun Kil Moon
"Depeche Mode," Strange Love


Lina's lover, and the surrogate's (Emily's) husband, Nick is also the father of two sons, one of whom has cerebral palsy and is, ultimately, the center of his life. Sexually and psychologically obsessed with Lina, bored and frustrated in a marriage that began too young due to unwed pregnancy, and stagnant in his career as a playwright who fails to earn enough money for his family, Nick's story is ultimately about the push-pull between self-sacrifice and the selfish pursuit of excitement and joy…and the various kinds of loss that can occur as part of either decision.

"School Night," Ani DiFranco
"I Remember," Damien Rice
"Ava Adore," Smashing Pumpkins
"Dark End of the Street, "Cat Power


Emily, who grew up in poverty with a bitter single mother and aspired to a better life, is now the successful vice principal of a charter school, and a highly competent mother and wife who is—for reasons inexplicable to everyone in her life—putting her own life on hold to serve as the gestational "vessel" for the community baby. Though she appears almost saintly to others, Emily has a tumultuous inner life in which she wrestles with major questions of good and evil, regret, and the limits of love.

"Devil Song, "Beth Orton
"Jamaica Inn," Tori Amos
"Between Us," The Violet Rays
"Down on Mission Street," Lloyd Cole & the Commotions


Gretchen Merry-Underwood is the egg donor in the community baby plan, as well as the older sister of Miguel's husband, Chad. A child of wealth and privilege, Gretchen is facing a vitriolic divorce from her gas-lighting husband, and grief over the emotional limits of her relationship with both her self-absorbed parents and her young son, who may have Asperger's Syndrome. After 41 years of doing what was expected of her, with little to show for it but a growing dependence on vodka, Gretchen finds herself involved in two potential custody battles, and has to decide, with enormous stakes, exactly what kind of person she wants to be.

"The Life You Chose," Jason Isbell
"Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up), "Florence + The Machine
"Come Undone," Duran Duran
"Between the Bars," Elliot Smith

Gina Frangello and Every Kind of Wanting links:

the author's website

Chicago Review of Books review
Kirkus review

Carolineleavittville interview with the author
Chicago Magazine interview with the author
Largehearted Boy Book Notes playlist by the author for A Life in Men
Largehearted Book Notes playlist by the author for Slut Lullabyes
Midnight Breakfast interview with the author

also at Largehearted Boy:

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