Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen - Review and Giveaway

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
320 pages
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.


  1. I feel like this is a book that I could relate to, and your review was really wonderful. I don't think it sounds like it's too full of melodrama at all, but rather that it's filled with the kind of drama and pathos that would be compelling. I am glad to hear you liked it!

  2. All those 'checks' can be applied to my life, too. I'd love a chance to win a copy of the book. Thanks.

  3. I don't usually go for this type of book but what mother can't relate to this one?? I often catch myself being "that" mom and literally try to shake myself out of it.

    And to be honest, when your life is sort of mundane and by the book, when something happens, it IS a big deal.

  4. This sounds like a very engrossing book. I would like to find out how the mother in the book handles the trajedy. Please enter me in this contest.


  5. I am looking forward to reading this one.

    teresasreadingcorner at gmail dot com

  6. Lisa, WOW! This books sounds great!! Very must-read!! Definitely throw my name into the drawing for the giveaway - thanks!

    frogs13 (at) gmail (dot) com

  7. This sounds really good. I'd love to win it. Thanks for the giveaway.

    forwhlz at gmail dot com

  8. I'm glad you loved this! I haven't read any of Quindlen works yet, but am looking forward to. I would like to enter the giveaway.

    ReadingOnARainyDay AT gmail DOT com

  9. I would be interested in reading this book. Will this book make me cry? I feel it will also impact me within the first chapter which will make me read it all in one sitting.

  10. No need to enter me as I got a chance to read it last year and I LOVED IT. Still get choked up when I think about it - I also highly recommend it!

  11. I just Les's review of this one and she gave it 5/5 and now your awesome review has me wanting to read it for sure!!!

  12. I would love to read Every Last One! Please enter me in this giveaway.

    bookloversarah at yahoo dot com

    Sarah E

  13. Isn't it great when you know so early in a book that you will love it? This sounds like a very powerful read - I would love to be entered. Thanks for hosting the giveaway!

    booksncity (at) gmail (dot) com

  14. No need to enter me, as I already have the book. I saw some mixed reviews back when it was released in hardcover that put me off a bit, but your review really makes me want to grab it off the shelf and start it right now. I'm really curious about the shocking event that transpires.

  15. My life follows that same checklist so this is one I really want to start soon. Great review; thank you so much for being on the tour!

  16. Great review Lisa! I felt the same as you. Shortly after I started this novel I knew I would never forget it. I have to say though that I've felt that way about both of the other novels of hers that I've read too. I think she is a very powerful writer.