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

2015 Reading

January
1. The Vanishing Witch, by Karen Maitland
2. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
3. Texts From Jane Eyre, by Mallory Ortberg
4. Brighton Rock, by Graham Green
5. Brat Farrar, by Josephine Tey
6. Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert
7. Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy
8. A Movable Feast, by Ernest Hemingway
9. A Room of One's Own, by Virginia Woolf
10. Other Voices, Other Rooms, by Truman Capote
11. Maggie-Now, by Betty Smith

February
1. Middlemarch, by George Eliot
2. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee
3. Nerdy, Shy, and Socially Inappropriate, by Cynthia Lee
4. Music For Chameleons, by Truman Capote
5. Peyton Place, by Grace Metalious
6. Unrequited, by Lisa Phillips
7. Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh
8. A Lost Lady, by Willa Cather

March
1. Persuasion, by Jane Austen
2. Love With a Chance of Drowning, by Torre DeRoche
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
4. Miss Buncle's Book, by DE Stevenson
5. One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel Garc…

2016 Reading

January:
1. The Jungle, by Upton Sinclair
2. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, by L. Frank Baum
3. The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
4. Liar: A Memoir, by Rob Roberge

February:
1. The Forsyte Saga, by John Galsworthy
2. Girl in the Woods, by Aspen Matis
3. She Left Me the Gun, by Emma Brockes
4. Because of the Lockwoods, by Dorothy Whipple
5. The Chronology of Water, by Lidia Yuknavitch
6. To Show and to Tell, by Philip Lopate

March:
1. Fierce Attachments, by Vivian Gornick
2. Too Brief a Treat, by Truman Capote
3. On the Move: a Life, by Oliver Sacks
4. The Go-Between, by LP Hartley
5. The Art of Memoir, by Mary Karr
6. Giving Up the Ghost, by Hilary Mantel
7. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, by Maya Angelou
8. The Great American Bus Ride, by Irma Kurtz
9. An Unquiet Mind, by Kay Radfield Jamison
10. A Widow's Story, by Joyce Carol Oates
11. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder
12. The Liar's Club, by Mary Karr
13. An American Childhood, by Annie Dillard
14. So Sad Today, by Melissa Broder

Review: Forever Amber, by Kathleen Winsor

Pages: 972Originally published: 1944My 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…