Monday, September 19, 2011

Every Last One - Anna Quindlen

Summary:  Mary Beth Latham has built her life around her family, around caring for her three teenage children and preserving the rituals of their daily life.  When one of her sons becomes depressed, Mary Beth focuses on him, only to be blindsided by a shocking act of violence.  What happens afterward is a testament to the power of a woman's love and determination, and to the invisible lines of hope and healing that connect one human being to another.  Ultimately, as rendered in Anna Quindlen's mesmerizing prose, Every Last One is a novel about facing every last one of the things that we fear the most, about finding ways to navigate a road we never intended to travel.  (Summary from book - Image from )

My Review:  Anna Quindlen is quickly becoming one of my favorite literary fiction authors.  She held me riveted with Black and Blue and ripped my heart out with Every Last One – a beautifully written and poignant tale of the joys and sorrows of motherhood, the unpredictability of life, and a woman who experiences a deeply painful and horrific loss.   Her writing is unique, effortless, and infused with subtle details that breathe life into the story.  Her characters seem unaffected and genuine – like more than just words on a page, but real people with their own feelings and histories.    

This book will hit any parent hard, and I doubt there is a mother in creation who will not identify, at least in part, with Mary Beth – an ordinary woman who is loving and imperfect, but trying to be a good mother.  Her feelings about her family and her hopes for her children echoed my own in so many ways, and I couldn’t help but see myself in her place even when the storyline went far past my experience.  Each page made it perfectly clear that the author understood exactly what it feels like to be a mother, to love children fiercely and know them individually, to worry about them and want to protect them.  Her depictions of complex family relationships and the daily aspects of mothering were insightful and delivered with stunning authenticity. 
The Latham family dynamic, the reality of their relationships, and their unique personalities was instantly captivating.  It wasn’t long before I was so enthralled with the characters that I couldn’t stop reading even when the story delved into significantly darker themes of grief and despair. 

While the summary indicated Mary Beth would face an “act of shocking violence,” nothing could have prepared me for it.  It was a sucker punch straight to the chest, that knocked the wind out of me and left me reeling.  Mary Beth’s devastation was palpable and my heart ached for her as she struggled to find meaning in a life so dramatically altered, and rejoiced when she began to emerge from her grief and live again.
Even though this book had moments of absolute horror and despair, it was also full of love, forgiveness, and renewal; I closed it feeling like I had been through a difficult, but ultimately uplifiting experience.  While I’ll never be able to categorize Every Last One as an “entertaining” read, it made an incredible, indelible impression and definitely earns its' place as a New York Times bestseller. 

My Rating:  4.5 Stars
For the sensitive reader:  Two instances of profanity, some discussion of violence, underage drinking, and passing references to sex.  This book contains some fairly horrific loss of life, though none of it is particularly detailed.  Do not read it if you are post-partum.  Just take my word for it.
Sum it up:  A bittersweet, inspirational, and harrowing emotional experience.


Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

This was my first Quindlen...and it packed a punch!

MindySue said...

Oh boy, did it. I was expecting something awful. I just wasn't expecting something that awful, though in hindsight I should have seen it coming.


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