Literary Corner Cafe

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Book Review - Every Last One by Anna Quindlen


Books that depict family life in US suburbia really aren’t my cup of tea. I find most of them boring or predictable, or worse, both. Anna Quindlen writes books about family life in US suburbia. That’s her specialty. So, why did I read her latest, Every Last One? Several reasons, the primary one being the fact that Anna Quindlen is no ordinary writer. She’s a very gifted, excellent writer, and after a hiatus of several years, I thought it was time I read one of her books again.

Every Last One revolves around suburban housewife Mary Beth Latham. Mary Beth is busy with her growing landscaping business and the joys and sorrows of her family – her ophthalmologist husband, Glen, her teenage daughter, Ruby and her sons, Max and Alex. Though Max and Alex are twins, they are fraternal, rather than identical. They neither look alike nor act alike. While Alex is athletic and bursting with confidence, Max, who is fond of music, is shy and depressed. It’s Ruby, however, who throws the Latham household into chaos and changes life forever when she ends a long standing romantic relationship with Kiernan, a boy Mary Beth likes and has come to regard as her “fourth child.”

The first half of Every Last One is, essentially, set-up. It’s not a spoiler (you’ll see it coming) to tell you that the middle of the book vividly details a heartbreaking and life-changing tragedy, while the second half of the book explores how the characters adjust to this tragedy.

I’m not sure Quindlen even meant for the tragedy that befalls the Latham family to be a huge surprise. The set-up for it is so good we can see it coming even if none of the characters can. We just don’t know the details until the tragedy actually occurs. In the hands of a lesser writer, this tragedy no doubt would have come off as far too melodramatic, but Anna Quindlen is definitely not a "lesser writer." The tragedy seems real, not really surprising, but still shocking and still, very, very real. I did feel two incidents surrounding it relied too heavily on coincidence, though. This certainly didn’t ruin the book for me, but it did cause me to shake my head and think, "No, no. That would never happen."

Every Last One is, overall, a wonderfully written book, and it’s a sensitive portrayal of love and loss and how we adjust and cope with devastation. If you like family dramas – dark family dramas set in suburban USA – then Every Last One is probably just the book for you. Whether or not you end up loving it will no doubt depend on how much you like and identify with Mary Beth. I think it’s safe to say that Anna Quindlen fans won’t be disappointed.

3/5 (If you like family dramas, you will definitely rate this book higher than three stars)

Recommended: Definitely for fans of Anna Quindlen and for fans of dark family dramas.

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