Skip to main content

Review: Every Last One, by Anna Quindlen


Pages: 295

Original date of publication: 2010

My edition: 2010 (Random House)

Why I decided to read: heard about it through a Shelf Awareness ad

How I acquired my copy: review copy from the Amazon Vine Program, March 2010

The first hundred pages or so of this book are devoted to describing how ordinary Mary Beth Latham’s life is. The first few pages or so, she describes a day in her ordinary life. She’s the wife of an eye doctor, mother of three children, living in a pretty ordinary (there’s that word again!) town, vaguely located in New England. Then that major act of violence occurs that we’re promised in the book blurb, and her life changes drastically. For the first half of the book, as Mary Beth describes her life, you start to get comfortable with the characters and Mary Beth’s rather bland life. Then, unexpectedly, things change.

The novel is not so much about what actually happens as what you do afterwards. After something truly horrific happens, how do you cope? Several of the characters have lost something or someone valuable to them, and each chooses to handle it in a different way. The book is also about how talking about a tragedy, or not talking about it, has an impact upon everyone involved. In fact, by not talking about the Event, there’s a great deal of uncertainty and tension between Mary Beth and her son, only alleviated when they actually sit down together in the presence of another (I’m being really vague here, but I don’t want to give anything away if you haven’t read the book).

There are a couple of minor details that don’t quite add up (Mary Beth owns her own business, for example, but she doesn’t seem to have an office or a proper work space). But in the larger scheme of things, all of that is unimportant. The ending seemed to me to be a bit rushed, too inconclusive for me. However, the strength of the book lies in the messages it conveys. This novel’s themes are so powerful and complicated that I’m not sure I can fully express them here. Quindlen’s writing style takes some getting used to: she writes in the present tense, in short, choppy sentences. But be assured that this is a novel that will have you thinking about it long after you’ve put it down. My mom, who loves Anna Quindlen’s books, saw her speak at the Philadelphia Free Library recently, and Quindlen told her that she thought this was her best book. It’s easy to see why.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972 Originally published: 1944 My edition: 2000 (Chicago Review Press) How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, 2004

Forever Amber takes place in the 1660s, immediately follwing Charles II's ("the Merry Monarch") return of the Stuarts to the English throne. The book features Amber St. Claire, a young woman who starts out as a sixteen-year-old country girl, naieve to the workings of the world. She immediately meets Bruce Carlton, a dashing young Cavalier, with whom she has a passionate love affair in choppy intervals throughout the book. They have two children together, but Bruce won't marry her for the reason he tells his friend Lord Almsbury: that Amber just isn't the kind of woman one marries.

Upon following Bruce to London, he goes to Virginia, leaving her to fend for herself. What follows is a series of affairs and four marriages, with Bruce coming back from America now and then. Amber's marriages are imprudent: her first husband is a gambler, her second is…

Review: Jane Austen's Letters, ed. by Deirdre Le Faye

Pages: 667 Original date of publication: 2011 My copy: 2011 (Oxford University Press) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Amazon.com, April 2013
This is a compilation of many of Jane Austen’s letters, most of them sent to her sister Cassandra between 1796 and 1817, the year of her death. Although many of Austen’s letters were destroyed by her sister in order to preserve the family reputation, the collection contains over 160 letters in which Austen gives her sister details about her life in Chawton—as well as giving us a tantalizing glimpse of what was going through her mind as she was writing her novels (especially the novel that was to become Pride and Prejudice, First Impressions). There are other letters here, too, giving advice to her niece and professional correspondence to publishers—as well as a couple of letters that were written by Cassandra Austen after Jane’s death.
To the sisters, the letters acted in the way that phone calls do today; Austen’s news is all about pe…

Review: Midnight in Peking, by Paul French

Pages: 259 Original date of publication: 2013 My copy: 2013 (Penguin) Why I decided to read: How I acquired my copy: Phoenix bookstore, May 2013
In January 1937, the body of a young British girl, Pamela Werner, was found near Peking’s Fox Tower. Although two detectives, one British and the other Chinese, spent months on the case, the case was never solved completely, and the case was forgotten in the wake of the invasion of the Japanese. Frustrated, Pamela’s father, a former diplomat, tried to solve the crime. His investigation took him into the underbelly of Peking society and uncovered a secret that was worse than anything he could have imagined.
At first, I thought that this would be a pretty straightforward retelling of a true crime, but what Paul French (who spent seven years researching the story) reveals in this book is much more than that. Foreign society in Peking in the 1930s was stratified, with the British colonials at the top and the White Russian refugees at the bottom, but…