I have had Scarborough Fair, by Simon and Garfunkel, stuck in my head ever since I finished Impossible by Nancy Werlin. But thanks to Werlin, the song is no longer the benign pretty ballad I once thought it was; now it is deliciously chilling. Werlin’s own realization about the creepy nature of the song—the man asking to the woman to complete impossible tasks in order to prove her love—inspired her to write Impossible.
Impossible focuses on the silent victim of Scarborough Fair: the woman who must somehow make a shirt without seam or needle work. But this is a different version of the song than the one popularized by Simon and Garfunkel. In Werlin’s variation, rather than the tasks winning the narrator’s love, the tasks are necessary if the woman wants to escape from being trapped as a true love of the narrator. Instead of the refrain “Then she’ll be a true love of mine,” Werlin’s narrator says “Else she’ll be a true love of mine.”
The woman in the song is Lucy, a high school junior who plans to spend her senior year training hard enough to win a track scholarship to college. Instead, she spends it trying to free herself from an ancient faery curse that has destroyed her mother, her grandmother, and all her maternal ancestors farther back than she can trace.
True love is, of course, the way to break the curse, but for a book with an evil Elfin King, the love story is not at all epic (and I mean that as a compliment). Lucy’s love with her best friend Zach sneaks up on her, and then she is grateful to live in her love, appreciating the small moments of happiness and laughter.
This steady, non-showy kind of love, Werlin seems to suggest, is the real magic. Anguished declarations of undying worship are nowhere near as powerful, and they certainly would not be strong enough to free Lucy from the evil King. But the quiet simple love that Lucy and Zach share can smash a centuries-old curse and allow Zach and Lucy to live a happy normal life with each other and with their families.
Impossible is the rare romance that uses a completely realistic depiction of love to ground the fantastic elements of the novel.
Now let's listen to Simon and Garfunkel's Scarborough Fair. Creepy, right?