Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Published April 2010 by Random House Publishing
Source: the publisher and TLC Book Tours
Mary Beth Latham is a wife, mother and small-business owner. She is a woman who has built her life around raising her three children, 8th-grade twins Alex and Max and high school senior Ruby. Hers is the house where the kids hang out. She is the mom who started having a Halloween party every year because one of her boys was afraid to trick-or-treat. She and her husband are the parents who send each of their children to different summer camps to encourage their individual interests.
Mary Beth has become so good at being a mom and wife that things have started to become a predictable, maybe even a bit dull. Mary Beth is dreading the day the Ruby will leave for college and can't believe that Ruby is breaking up with long-time boyfriend, Kiernan, who is devastated. When Max slips into depression, though, Mary Beth has to turn her full focus on to him. But it's an unbelievably "shocking act of violence" that blindsides Mary Beth and changes her life.
I was ten pages into this book when I said to my husband "this book is really going to affect me." Ten pages. I can't remember the last time I was so sure about a book so soon into it. Right off the bat I found myself relating to Mary Beth. Children the center of your life? Check. Extra chair at the table for the inevitable extra kid for dinner? Check. So busy dealing with the two children in your life that demand more attention that you can almost forget the "easy" child? Check.
In fact, Quindlen has created an entire cast of characters in Every Last One that is real and well-rounded, a community that is instantly recognizable. She has done a wonderful job here of focusing on the routine of everyday life, the details a mother is concerned with, all while building up an underlying tension. In the aftermath of tragedy, Quindlen gives the reader a thoughtful exploration of how Mary Beth deals with what has happened and how those around her are sometimes supportive, sometimes intrusive, and sometimes thoughtless. Not all of it worked for me; it sometimes felt like there were too many story arcs.
Kirkus Reviews talked about the melodrama of the book. I think that sometimes a book that begins with an ordinary life and then veers off into something much bigger can give the impression of melodrama. But for me, there was a dramatic event (which may have been a bit more foreshadowed than was necessary) but the aftermath of that did not leave me with the impression of melodrama at all. The New York Times review, on the other hand, called the book "spellbinding." I don't know that is a description I would use, either because so much of this book was a quiet exploration of love, friendship, family dynamics, and the healing process.
Every Last One would make an excellent book club selection; there is a lot to discuss here that women can relate to. A huge thank you to the ladies at TLC Book Tours for including me in this tour. For more reviews, check out the full list of bloggers on the tour.
To learn more about Quindlen and her other novels and writing, check out her website.
Random House has generously offered a copy of this book to one of my readers (U.S. residents only--sorry!). If you're interested, please let me know in a comment and leave me a way to get a hold of you. I'll select a winner on Sunday, March 27th.