Every Last One

Anna Quindlen’s latest novel is worth reading, but only if you prepare yourself for the worst, and only if you are ready to handle the emotional consequences. Up until midpoint the book is a quiet pleasure to read, oddly compelling despite the day-to-day family life it details. Beneath the narrator, Mary Beth’s, description and analysis of her happy but rather normal family lurks a dark sense of menace. First there’s the destruction at her landscaping work site, then there’s the craziness of her former neighbor/best friend, and there’s also the neediness of her daughter’s boyfriend—a clingy, unhealthy, (dare I say it?) almost Twilight-esque we-can-never-be-apart sort of desperation on his part. Oh, and I cannot leave out the outsider depression her drum-playing, long-haired son is going through. The jacket and all the reviews I read prior to cracking the spine on this novel mentioned violence, so I felt a distinct sense of suspense as I read and began to tally the danger surrounding Mary Beth and her family, her outgoing and individualistic daughter, her everyman, sports-playing, popular son (in addition to his twin the drum player), and her busy and kind husband. When the violence occurs it is all the more sinister because of its quiet nature. Mary Beth experiences it through a fog, and so do we. It was not at all what I expected….well, let’s just say it was so much more than I expected that I was shocked. And jarred. And nearly put the book down. But I kept reading instead, and I am glad I did. The second half of the book is difficult, but beautifully written and ultimately satisfying. The ending I found particularly appropriate: Mary Beth (the book is first person, so obviously she makes it through the rough patches) eventually finds an outlet for her grief. She will never recover, however, and the novel lets us know this in no uncertain terms. She must understand her loss and continue living, but she will never, ever recover. I’m glad I read this one for the lovely writing and the carefully structured chapters, but it was bleak.


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2 responses to “Every Last One

  1. Karen

    The contrast between the almost excruciatingly mundane details of MB’s everyday life and the then the mind boggling events and changes that she endured and then the return to a changed day to day required the most skilled writing on the author’s part…and left this reader wondering why the journey.

  2. Lynn A. Bonfield

    I wish I had followed your warning about Every Last One. I’ve always enjoyed Anna Quindlen’s work so I didn’t think much of it when I picked up the book at the library. The violence was so disturbing to me (so well written) that I had trouble sleeping for days (I mean nights). Anyway, thanks for the preview; wish I had followed it.

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