Literary Corner Cafe

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Sixteen "One Hit" Wonders

The authors below really aren't "one hit wonders." Even though some of them only wrote one book, that one book, like Wuthering Heights is one for the ages. The authors who wrote more than one book often wrote other very, very good books, but still, they remain known primarily for one book and one book only as opposed to Kazuo Ishiguro, for example, who is known, not only for his Booker winning The Remains of the Day, but for A Pale View of Hills, An Artist of the Floating World, and Never Let Me Go as well as several others.

If you have a "one hit wonder" you'd like to add to this list, please leave me a comment. Thanks for reading.

1. Bram Stoker - Dracula - Though Stoker wrote other books, none ever came close to the impact of Dracula, the classic vampire tale, which is still read and loved and imitated (though never successfully) today.

2. J.D. Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye - Salinger became a beloved American author despite his reclusive and somewhat abrasive personality. His forte seemed to be short stories, and though he wrote other novels, he's known as the author of The Catcher in the Rye and its frustrated and confused protagonist/narrator, Holden Caulfield.

3. Margaret Mitchell - Gone With the Wind - When you write a book as wildly popular and enduring as Gone With the Wind, I guess you don't need to write any other and Margaret Mitchell didn't. The 1937 Pulitzer Prize winner, this is one of the bestselling books of all time. The 1939 movie adaptation is beloved by many. It's controversial because of its views on slavery, but most historians say those views truly reflected the times.

4. Harper Lee - To Kill a Mockingbird - The winner of the 1961 Pulitzer Prize, this is the only book Harper Lee ever finished, though she did begin others. This book takes place during the Great Depression and follows two children as they watch their father, Atticus Finch defend a black man. This is one of the best, and most enduring novels in American literature.

5. Herman Melville - Moby-Dick - A big, messy book, this is still regarded as one of the first great American novels, and it's opening line, "Call me Ishmael," is one of the most recognizable. Melville did write a novella and several short stories (some of them excellent), but almost everyone knows him for Moby-Dick.

6. William Golding - Lord of the Flies - An allegory that has become a classic. William Golding won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1983, and some of his other books are very, very good, but probably because of its popularity in high school literature curricula, Golding will always be identified with Lord of the Flies rather than with his entire body of work.

7. Anna Sewell - Black Beauty - A heartbreaking young adult classic, written in 1877, this novel about a horse, who is passed from owner to owner is one of the bestselling books of all time. Unfortunately, it's the only one Sewell wrote. Tragically, she died only five months after the book was published, probably due to hepatitis.

8. Antoine de Saint-Exupery - The Little Prince - Originally written in French and titled Le petit prince, this book has been so wildly successful through the years that it's a classic not only in the original French, but all around the world as well. Saint-Exupery was an aviator as well as a writer, and during an attempted flight from Paris to Saigon, he crashed in the Sahara, which was his inspiration for The Little Prince. The book is often thought of as one for children, but it can be read by adults for its philosophical commentary as well. Saint-Exupery wrote several books on aviation, but he is best known for The Little Prince, one of the bestselling books of all time.

9. Marguerite Duras - The Lover - Marguerite Duras wrote many novels, plays, films, interviews, essays, and short stories, but mention her name, and people will immediately think of the novel, The Lover. Originally written in French and titled L'Amant, the book won the Prix Goncourt in 1984. The novel is written in a dreamy and hallucinatory style and details the illicit affair between a teenage French girl and a wealthy Chinese man in 1929 French Indochina.

10. Ralph Ellison - The Invisible Man - Ralph Ellison's best known work won the National Book Award in 1953, the only book of Ellison's to be published during his lifetime. It deals with issues of race facing African Americans in the early 20th century.

11. Jack Kerouac - On the Road - Kerouac, one of the "Beat authors" wrote several other novels, all in the same, "Beat" style, but it's On the Road that everyone remembers and identifies with Kerouac's name. Published in 1957, the book is largely autobiographical and details Kerouac's own trips around the country with friends as they did drugs, listened to music, and wrote poetry.

12. Joseph Heller - Catch-22 - This book has become so widely known that its very title has worked its way into our modern lexicon as representative of a "no win" situation. A satire, the novel takes place during World War II and is recognized as one of the greatest depictions of the absurdities of modern war. Joseph Heller did write other books, even books that were critically well-received, but it's Catch-22 for which he's remembered.

13. Emily Bronte - Wuthering Heights - Though she also wrote poetry, this is the only book Emily Bronte ever wrote, probably due to her untimely death. It's a marvelous book, though, the best example of Romanticism to be found - anywhere - and the best book written in Victorian times. This is a love story to eclipse all other love stories, revolving around the wild and tortured characters of Catherine and Heathcliff. People seem to either love or hate this book (I love it), but there's no denying its popularity of that it will cause the name of "Emily Bronte" to live forever.

14. Charlotte Bronte - Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte wrote three other novels, but none is as well known or as beloved as is Jane Eyre, her masterpiece. The story of a governess who finds true happiness ("Reader, I married him.") is a book beloved by generations, and its popularity shows no sign of slowing down. (Emily and Charlotte had a sister, Anne, who also wrote, but she is almost totally eclipsed by her siblings.)

15. Oscar Wilde - The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde was primarily a poet and a playwright (his masterpiece is "The Importance of Being Earnest"), but it's his one novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray that people most readily identify him with. The story of a beautiful man who doesn't age, even as his portrait does, this short novel is a wonderful example of Gothic horror fiction with a strong Faustian theme.

16. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra - Don Quixote - Yes, Cervantes wrote other books. He wrote short stories. But he's known for the magnificent Don Quixote, perhaps the first modern novel. A picaresque novel chronicling the exploits of Don Quixote and his loyal servant, Sancho Panza, this book regularly appears on lists of "all time greats" and it secured Cervantes place in history forever.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Book Review - The Surrendered by Chang-rae Lee


I don't think I've ever tried harder to like a book than I did Chang-rae Lee's latest, The Surrendered. But I think a book should pull us in to its world, make us want, no, need to know what happens to its characters. We shouldn't have to try to like it.

The Surrendered is a departure for Lee. It is, perhaps, his most ambitious novel to date, and for this, I applaud him. His previous three novels were all written in the first person and revolved around a rather displaced male, who was trying to figure out just where he belonged in the world. The Surrendered, by contrast, belongs not to one person, but to three.

One is June Han Singer, a Korean war orphan, who in the book's present of 1986 is a widow who runs a successful New York antiques business, is somewhat estranged from her only child, a grown son, Nicholas, and who, at the young age of forty-seven, is dying from stomach cancer.

The second protagonist of The Surrendered is Hector Brennan, a former GI who served in the Korean War, and after his discharge worked at the orphanage where June grew up. The third story belongs to a woman who in 1986 is long dead (thirty years), Sylvie Tanner. Sylvie and her husband, Ames, were the missionaries who ran the orphanage that housed June and eployed Hector. Each character - June, Hector, and Sylvie - is fighting his or her personal demons that threaten to destroy, not only them, but those around them as well.

As Lee sets up his book and intertwines the stories of the three protagonists, the action of The Surrendered moves back and forth in time from 1930s Manchuria, to 1950s Korea, to New York City and Italy in 1986. At no time did I feel disoriented or "lost" during the transitions in time. In fact, they were very smooth, however despite this, the book still had a very static feel for me. I really didn't get any sense of the passing of time at all.

The book begins in 1950, with the eleven-year-old June and her family fleeing North Korea for the south and Pusan. I must say, I found the opening chapter almost hypnotic, and Lee did an excellent job of pulling me into the book. However, after giving us an introduction to June, he leaves her behind to fill us in on the beginnings of the backstories of both Hector and Sylvie. This went on for so long that by the time we'd returned to June, I'd almost forgotten about her and almost didn't care.

The three main characters' stories first overlap and intertwine in 1953, in that countryside orphanage, which wasn't too far from Seoul. It's there that the three form a deadly triad of sorts, with the beautiful, elusive, and very damaged Sylvie at its center, as both Hector and June, who see each other as mortal enemies, vie for Sylvie's love and attention. And in one of the book's best drawn scenes, we learn that in their own ways, both Hector and June were responsible for Sylvie's tragic and all-too-early demise.

While I found Sylvie Tanner to be a beautifully drawn, if not wholly likable character, filled with both darkness and light, tortured by demons, yet still able, at times, to enjoy life and those around her, I found both Hector and June to be terribly underdeveloped. Hector is, outwardly, very handsome, a man with "movie star" good looks, someone who seems impervious to both physical pain and injury. However, in most every other way, he's a loser. He fails at everything he attempts - if another person is involved. And he does nothing at all to try to remedy this sorry state of affairs. He just accepts this as his fate.

Then there's June. I don't want to try to second guess Lee, but it seemed in June, he wanted to create a woman who couldn't survive unless she built a strong shell about her, and in building that strong shell, Lee created a character that is just plain mean. I kept wanting and waiting for each of the three main characters to show us a redeeming quality, however as soon as one of them, usually Sylvie, would display even slightly redeeming qualities, he or she would just revert to his or her "old self" once again, June in particular. In the end, June wasn't strong, she as weak. She was too weak to allow herself to be vulnerable to others, too weak to really love, too weak to live, and I don't mean just in the physical sense.

The secondary characters - among them, Benjamin Li, Ames Tanner, and Dora suffer from being very sketchily drawn, little more than cyphers. Dora had such terrific potential, but it seemed as if Lee couldn't decided whether to make her the town floozy or a sweet-but-frustrated hausfrau. June's son, Nicholas, in particular, is little more than a plot device, a "straw character," and the so-called "twist" involving him is insulting to the reader's intelligence and emotions. I can forgive Lee his problems with third person multiple POV. It can be very difficult for some writers to handle, but I can't forgive him for what he did with Nicholas. Lee wasn't playing fair with the reader regarding that one. And it isn't like we couldn't see it coming. The foreshadowing regarding Nicholas' fate was so heavy-handed, it was like Lee was hitting the reader over the head with the book, saying, "Pay attention now. We're foreshadowing over here." We get it, Mr. Lee, and subtlety is a virtue.

For most of its 400-plus pages, The Surrendered is anything but subtle. In fact, it's operatic in its use of over-the-top melodrama. This is a book so filled with tragedy that it puts "Madame Butterfly" to shame. Some of these things, I think, will be acceptable to sensitive and sophisticated readers, while others will not. For the most part, however, The Surrendered is overwritten and terribly overwrought.

The Surrendered isn't really "a war story," but because much of it takes place during times of brutal warfare, there is violence aplenty in the book - murder, rape, mutilation, torture, starvation, and more. Lee does an excellent job in portraying these events, and strangely, these scenes are the ones that are, if anything, underplayed, not overwritten and melodramatic. If only Lee could have exercised the same restraint in portraying his characters' emotional lives.

I liked the darkness, the bleakness in The Surrendered. I liked the fact that the major characters were all damaged people even if I didn't like the fact that Lee doesn't develop them quite as much as he should have. What really turned me off the book are its deficiencies in craft, and The Surrendered contains many deficiencies in craft.

There are the underdeveloped characters, whose motivations are, many times, at best, murky. There's the "straw man" role of Nicholas, one of the book's biggest failings, there is an abundance of coincidence and contrivance, and there's a scene with a passport at Immigration in Leonardo da Vinci airport in Rome that is completely unbelievable. I think some readers are going to ignore these deficiencies in craft, however, and allow themselves to be swept away in the melodrama of the characters' lives, instead. So is that good or bad? I don't know. I can only answer for myself. I found it impossible to empathize with or connect with any of the characters in the book. Their hearts were too closed to life, to love, to humanity. Maybe this is the effect Lee wanted to achieve. If it is, I respect it, but it simply didn't work for me.

The Surrendered definitely has power, especially that final page. And I think there's a wonderful story in this book just clamoring to be told, but somehow, probably through the uncomfortable use of the third person multiple POV (at least for Lee), Lee let it (the story) get away from him. I realize Lee was aiming high, and I certainly commend him for that. And I don't want to sell Lee short. He's an excellent writer. Perhaps, in time, maybe with his next book, he'll be more comfortable with third person multiple POV. But in this book, the overall effect was melodramatic and messy.

And while this might not bother some readers, there was way, way too much fornication and adultery in this book for me. It was tolerable until Ames Tanner pulled Sylvie (who he'd not yet married) out of the bathtub. From then on, I'd had enough. The rest was surfeit and really added nothing to the story.

I did try very, very hard to like The Surrendered, and I felt bad when I couldn't. Really. Truly. I did. Will I read Lee's next book? Probably, yes, I will. Will I like it? That remains to be seen.

2.5/5

Recommended: Yes, with the caveat that the book isn't perfect. I'm recommending it because when it's good, it's very, very good, and as I said, despite being overwritten, the book does have power. Had Lee written the leaner story that was begging to be told, this book would have been a masterpiece.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Writing Tips - Getting Published - Part Two


You've written your novel, proofread it, made any changes you felt were necessary. You've printed out a very professional submission package, and now you're ready to send it to an agent or publisher. Congratulations!

6. Submit Your Package. As mentioned before, always send an agent or editor exactly what he or she asks for - no more and no less. If you're sending a large package, e.g., the entire manuscript, purchase a manuscript box at your local stationery or office supply store, otherwise a sturdy manila envelope will do. Always, always, always address your submission package to a specific person, never to "Agent" or "Editor." Take the time to find out which person in the agency or publishing house would be most receptive to your manuscript. If you want any materials returned, make sure you include a stamped, self-addressed envelope(SASE). Most agents and editors are open to "simultaneous submissions," but if you accept an offer, please be courteous and let everyone else know you have.

7. Have patience. It can take any where from one day to six months to hear from an agent or editor. Response times vary greatly. I had one agent respond to me more than a year after I'd queried her. I was a little surprised, and by that time, I already had an agent, but it just goes to show you that patience is a necessary part of getting published.

8. Don't become discouraged. Did you know that Kathryn Stockett's wonderful gem of a novel, The Help, was rejected by forty-five agents before she found one that liked it? And even after that agent agreed to take it on, it was several years before it sold. Was it worth it? I'd say so. The Help has been at the top of the New York Times Best Seller list for ages now and it shows no sign of slowing down. Tinkers, the book that won this year's Pulitzer Prize for Fiction had a rough way to go as well. It was turned down by every major publishing house in New York. It finally found a home with a very small press and went on to win the Pulitzer. Not every sale takes this long, however, or is this difficult to make. Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian sold two days after her agent submitted it to publishers.

9. Keep working. Don't sit and worry and fret while you're waiting on your book to find a home. Get busy and write another one. Writers are more than artists. We're also craftsmen, and our craft gets rusty
unless we hone our skills on a daily basis. Make writing a habit. Hopefully, you've already found your best "writing time," that time when you're most creative and most able to concentrate and work. It may be from six to nine each morning. It may be from six to noon. It could be from two in the afternoon until six in the evening. The time doesn't really matter. What matters is that you're consistent and write every day. Even if you don't feel your writing is very good, even if you find yourself sitting at your desk producing nothing, make sure you sit there. The words will come...eventually.

10. Rewrite if asked. If you're lucky enough to have your work accepted on the condition that you rewrite, then by all means, do it! You may think you know more than your agent or publisher, but believe me, you don't. Agents and publishers live in the world of book publishing. They know the market inside and out. They know what's going on almost before it happens. Rewriting is worth it, and it doesn't mean your original work is bad, only that the market requires something different. Don't take it personally, just do it.

Following these ten steps certainly won't guarantee you'll be published, however not following them will almost certainly guarantee that you won't be. Talent is important, craft is important, but marketing yourself and your work is a necessity. Make sure you do it right. And when your book is finally published, go out and celebrate! You'll have earned it.

Good luck, and happy writing!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Home From Europe!

Sebastien and I are home from Europe! We had a GORGEOUS time in Paris, Provence, and Tuscany, but we're both now ready to start working at our respective jobs again. I'm glad I found some Internet cafes where I could post a few things while we drove through the south of France and the north of Italy. We plan on returning to France and Italy in August or September! It's going to be great! We had to give Siena and Orvieto a pass this time around, but we don't want to miss them when we return.

I have so many books to catch up on! :)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Book Review - Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie


It took me a long time to get around to reading this book, though I’ve read other books by Salman Rushdie and enjoyed most of them, in particular, The Moor’s Last Sigh. I knew, however, that I’d have to read Midnight’s Children some day, and I’m certainly glad I did.

Midnight’s Children is a book that outwardly, deals with 1001 children born on. August 15, 1947, the first day of India's independence from Britain. The book deals more specifically with two of those children, however, both born in a Bombay nursing home and switched at birth. One of them belongs to a wealthy Muslim family with roots in Kashmir, the Sinais, while the other belongs to a Hindu street singer and an Englishman she happened to meet. The aristocrat, who grows up believing he's poor, is named Shiva; the poor half Hindu, half English boy, who is taken home by the aristocratic Muslim family is named Saleem, and it is Saleem who is the narrator of this book. Midnight’s Children, however, is far from being a conventional story of "switched babies." If you're at all familiar with the writing of Salman Rushdie, then you'll know "conventional" stories are not what he writes.

Saleem, of course, is given every luxury, but even luxuries can't prevent accidents, and one day, when Saleem suffers a bump on the head, he discovers that he has a gift for telepathy. It is through this gift for telepathy that Saleem "learns" the secret of his own parentage and that all of the 1001 "midnight's children" possess special gifts no "ordinary" person ever could hope to achieve. Some have been gifted with the ability to travel through time, while others can change their sex at will. Only one, however, is telepathic...Saleem.

Saleem is the "leader" of the "midnight's children" and they await his call to meet and pool their supernatural resources for the good of India. There is a problem, however. Saleem fears Shiva, the child whose life he’s stolen, the child who grew up on the streets of Bombay and should have grown up with every luxury. Although Saleem uses his powers to bring about death, destruction and evil rather than good, the 581 surviving "midnight's children" do eventually meet, but under very different circumstances than those originally ordained, and their fate is a fate to be feared rather than envied.

Midnight’s Children is a complex, complicated book and one that contains a very convoluted plot, the centerpiece of which is always Saleem. Although Midnight’s Children contains about twelve narrative strands, Rushdie does manage to bring them together and integrate them beautifully in the end.

Midnight’s Children is, of course, a "big book," encompassing many characters, subplots, metaphors and even several themes. It's also a book that is quintessentially "big city" Indian. Midnight’s Children is no lush, dreamy romance, embodying an India that never was. It's coarse, slangy and very aggressive...just like India can be. Rushdie exposes, rather than hides, all that's wrong in India, and thus, Midnight’s Children paints an extraordinarily rich and evocative, though really a rather vulgar, picture of Bombay.

Midnight’s Children begins on a rather contrived note, but as the book progresses, the story takes on a much darker quality, especially as it becomes more and more clear that the character of Saleem is a metaphor for post-colonial India. The political backdrop of Midnight’s Children, together with its mix of the magical and the fantastic are reminiscent of Gabriel Garcia Marquez in One Hundred Years of Solitude and Gunter Grass in The Tin Drum, though I think both Garcia Marquez and Grass probably had an easier time of mythologizing their characters. Rushdie also employs a far more intense prose style than does the melancholy Garcia Marquez and one that's far more angry than is Grass's. This book is a veritable "whirling dervish" of language.

Midnight’s Children is definitely a masterpiece. The blend of the historical and the fantastic is perfectly balanced, the prose is brilliant (though wild and angry), there is humor, there is pathos and there is bitter irony in the book.

It should definitely be pointed out that Midnight’s Children won the "Booker of Booker's," meaning it was the one book among all the Booker Prize winners judged to be the very best. I can't decide if I agree with this or not (not that it matters). I sometimes think Kazuo Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day is a "cleaner," "purer," more perfect book, though Midnight’s Children is certainly more complex and convoluted, and it expresses a far wider range of emotional experience. While The Remains of the Day was brilliantly understated and almost claustrophobic, Midnight’s Children is practically epic in scope. Both books are brilliantly written, so I guess it just comes down to a matter of personal taste. I love both.

5/5

Recommend: To anyone who loves great literature.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Writing Tips - Getting Published - Part One


Are you dreaming of becoming a well-known writer, or have you actually written a book and now want to get it published and into bookstores? It’s not impossible, though I’m not going to kid you – it is difficult. However, if you follow the ten steps below, your job of writing and publishing your first book will be much easier.

1. Finish the Book. If you’re trying to get a fiction book published and you’re a first time novelist, i.e., no track record, you’re going to have to finish the entire book before any agent or publisher will even consider your work. Editors might like your idea, but they want to make sure you can deliver the goods – on time and extremely well written.

2. Target Your Book to a Specific Audience. We’ve all heard of "crossover" books. Books that are "literary science fiction" or a "horror romance." This might work for established authors, but first time authors will have to have a clearly defined audience in mind when either they or their agent markets their book. Be aware that editors will definitely want to know who your intended readership is. If you can’t answer that question, editors will infer that you simply don’t know enough about publishing to be published yourself. Try to define your book in one sentence.

3. Do Your Homework. This one applies whether you have an agent or not. Various agents and editors tend to specialize in various types of books. Some agents specialize in literary fiction, some editors in mysteries and thrillers. Whether you’re searching for an agent or a publisher, know what each specific agent and editor wants. You can find this information in books like Writer’s Market or Literary Market Place.

4. Send an Agent/Editor What He Asks For – No More, No Less. Some agents and editors want to see only a query letter first. Others initially want to see a query letter and the first three chapters. Others want an outline. Still others want the entire manuscript. If you’re bypassing an agent (and I don’t recommend that), there are some editors who will read manuscripts submitted by the author, and there are editors who will only read manuscripts submitted by an agent. Your job, in marketing your work, is to know exactly what an agent or publisher wants and then to submit that – no more and no less. Not until someone asks you. So, where do you find who wants what? Again, Writer’s Market and Literary Market Place are two excellent sources.

5. Make Sure Your Submission is Professional. The best way to make an initial bad impression is to submit a poorly or unprofessionally prepared manuscript. You must print (laser printers only, no dot matrix) or type your manuscript on very high quality white (nothing else but white) bond paper. Never use onion skin or erasable paper. If you do, you can count on your work not even being read no matter how good it might be. Make sure you double space your manuscript and leave one-inch margins on all sides. Don’t justify your right margin, however. Number your pages (what if a busy editor drops your manuscript?), and for goodness sake, use spell check. Use a 12-point font in either Courier or Times New Roman (I love Times New Roman). Never mix fonts and don’t use boldface or italics unless the words are supposed to be in bold or italics in the printed book. The Writer’s Digest Guide to Manuscript Formats will tell you all you need to know about preparing a professional manuscript. Several agents and a few editors will allow you to submit your work electronically, but don’t count on this. Most are going to want a hard copy. Take a leaf from the Boy Scouts and be prepared.

(To be continued)

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.