Thursday, February 2, 2012

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen


Anna Quindlen knows how to tell a story. You may not always feel comfortable while reading it - mothers die (One True Thing),  domestic violence is rampant (Black and Blue), and painful coming-of-age choices must be made (Object Lessons) - but Quindlen is a master. Her characters' lives will draw you in ever time, but beware of the emotional punch.

I was prepared when I began reading Every Last One on a flight home from Florida last month.  Other bloggers warned that an "unspeakable tragedy" was in store. I put the book away shortly before landing, certain the event was just pages away. The funny thing is that once I got home, I avoided the book for days. I needed extra time to brace myself, but then the rest of the book flew by just as quickly.

The first half focused on Mary Beth Latham's seemingly perfect life - great husband, three kids, a beautiful home, and her own landscaping business. Sure there are the trials of daily living, but overall things are pretty good. Half way through the book, something horrible happens. The rest is all about surviving, putting your life back together as best you can, and facing the next day. It was easy to empathize with Mary Beth, but something about her rubbed me the wrong way.

Returning to Quindlen's fiction after a nearly ten year hiatus has been a pleasure. Although I liked the first half much better than the second, Every Last One definitely met my expectations. A recommended read.

 My rating:


19 comments:

  1. JoAnn, I agree with everything you said about this book. I went back and read my review of it and felt like I was back in the moment. The mother was not my favorite either, at least at times. It's a powerful book, no doubt, and was one of my best of last year. I need to read more by this author.

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  2. Funny. I didn't think at first that I had read anything by her but then you listed off all of those books and I've read all of them. I agree, she does pull you in but there is something that bothers me when I read her books and I can't quite put my finger on them. Formulaic, maybe?

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  3. I hope to get to this book soon. It has sat way too long.

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  4. I've been wanting to try Anna Quindlen for a while now. This looks like it's really good, but so do the other ones you listed :)

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  5. Of course I'm curious to know what the tragedy is now!

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  6. I am not in a mood for "unspeakable tragedy" right now, although I appreciate how well written it must be. Thanks for your review!

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  7. I really need to read her. But you see, it is books like this that turn me into a doomsday maniac. Whenever everything seems to be going well in my life, I wonder when it is all going to go unspeakably wrong like in these books! Haha. I guess I will just have to strengthen myself before I pick up one of her novels.

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  8. JoAnn, I've read many books by this author that I enjoyed but this one didn't work for me. I read it when it was first released and just did not enjoy that mother. Glad it worked for you though.

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  9. Kay - Think you appreciated this more than I did... while I enjoyed it, I doubt it'll be on my favorites list in December.

    Ti - Hmm, that may be. After I read Blessing (2002?), I decided I was done with her fiction. This seemed like it would be too good to miss. I prefer her nonfiction.

    Nise' - Brace yourself and choose your reading time carefully!

    Kelly - I've enjoyed all her books I've read, with the exception of Blessings. If I remember correctly, that one was just a little too sappy for me.

    Sam - It's one of the harshest I've ever read...

    Col - I can definitely appreciate that position!!

    Sandy - Oh, I hear you! Maybe you should try one of her other books instead...

    Diane - I can understand why she wouldn't 'work' for some readers. A lot of her actions/attitudes bothered me.

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  10. This one packed such a punch for me. I can't say I liked the mother, but I had so much empathy for her and could put myself in her situation. Reminding myself that everyone reacts in their own way to grief made it easier to read the second half of the book.

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  11. I love Anna Quindlens books, every last one!

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  12. Lisa - Very sensible approach. I was a little creeped out by the similarities with my own life... right down to the school colors. Yikes!

    Elisabeth - I've enjoyed quite a few of her books, too. Blessings was the only one I was less than thrilled with.

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  13. I've read a few of her books and enjoyed them. I will have to get my hands on a copy of this one because I need to know what happened!!

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  14. I enjoyed the book too which surprised me. I'm not fond of storiess where something tragic happens within a family but this was handled so masterfully that I survived it. I probably used up an entire box of tissues but enjoyed it nonetheless.

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  15. I have had this one on my wish list for awhil. The only Quindlen I've read is Black & Blue way back when it was first published. That was a little raw for me it I remember correctly.

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  16. Staci - I hope you're not sorry once you learn what happened...

    Margot - I'm generally not a fan of tragedies like this either, but I think it's a tribute to Quindlen's skill as a writer that I kept reading.

    Stacybuckeye - You do remember correctly. Most of Quindlen's novels have had that effect on me...pretty strong/harsh subject material, I'd say.

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  17. I've never read Quindlen's work, but this sure sounds like a powerful story.

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  18. It's been almost two years since I read this book and I can still remember it as vividly as if it had been last week. I rated it 5/5 and read it in less than two days. It was literally "unputdownable." I wonder, though, if it wouldn't have been so compelling, had it not touched a very tender nerve for this reader. In my review I wrote, "It felt as though Quindlen had peeked inside my heart; her descriptions of Mary Beth's shock and disbelief centered around the incident are spot on." Having suffered a tragic loss so similar to Mary Beth's, I was compelled to continue reading... perhaps to see if it was possible to find happiness in the world ever again. And, I can honestly say it is...eventually.

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  19. Les - I thought of you time and again as I read this book. So pleased to hear that it is possible to find happiness again. Hugs.

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