EVERY LAST ONE by Anna Quindlen

Book Quote:

“One of the worst aspects of living now on the far shore is that across the chasm I can see my glib unknowing former self. I despise that woman, her foolish little worries and her cheap sympathies. She knew nothing. But I can’t truly wish on her what I know now.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody (MAY 1, 2010)

I have read every one of Anna Quindlen’s novels. Every Last One is, by far, the most compelling and beautifully written of any she’s written. It is the story of one family that is impacted by a horrific act of violence. Their resultant grief and struggle to survive is told with great empathy and insight. Quindlen’s language is poetic and languorous. The book is a page-turner but the reader is never rushed. We are there with the characters and we face what they face, in their own time and in their own way.

Mary Beth Latham is a mother whose life revolves around her family. Though she has a successful landscaping business, her priority is her family. She is dedicated to her children: 17 year old Ruby, and the fraternal twins, 14 year-olds Alex and Max. She has been married to her physician husband, Glen, for close to twenty-five years. The marriage is happy enough but Mary Beth’s focus is her children. She loves the routine of cooking, going to the children’s sports events and opening her home to her children’s friends.

Though they are twins, Alex and Max could not be more different. Alex is popular and easy-going. He excels at every sport that he tries. Max is quiet and introverted, not good at sports and not very popular. He takes drum lessons and seems to enjoy this activity. With good reason, Mary Beth suspects that Max is depressed and takes him to a therapist who specializes in the treatment of twins.

Ruby is a senior in high school, a unique individual with her own flowering style. She is active in her school’s literary journal and writes poetry. She has two best friends, Rachel and Sara. Next year she will be off to college. Her grades are so good that she is likely to be accepted anywhere she applies.

For several years Ruby has had a boyfriend named Kiernan, the son of a former friend of Mary Beth’s. Kiernan is like a fourth child in the family until the time when Ruby decides to break up with him. The break-up is traumatic for Kiernan. He begins to drink heavily, sneaks into the Latham house and Ruby’s car to leave photos and presents for Ruby. One evening, in the middle of the night, he remains outside the Latham house howling and crying for Ruby. Mary Beth comforts him and sends him home. It starts to get creepy for Ruby and she attempts to tell her mother but Mary Beth is too involved with Max’s depression to really understand the severity of issues with Kiernan.

On New Year’s Eve, a horrific event of violence occurs that impacts the whole Latham family. Quindlen’s description of grief is so right-on that it is very painful to read. She is able to draw out the characters’ feelings over time just as the feelings of real grief are played out. This is not done in one or two pages, but for the whole second half of the book. The first half of the book is the prologue to the event and the second half of the book is about the impact of the event.

The first half of the book may seem slow as it sets the stage for what is to follow. However, it is necessary and important for it is here that we get the sense of what the Latham family is about – – who their friends are, their place in the community, their values and the family dynamics. It requires a bit of patience to get through this part but Quindlen knows how to set the stage for what is to follow.

I have never read such a potent and painful description of grief except in the wonderful novel, How to Paint a Dead Man, by Sara Hall. Quindlen’s writing has matured. There is no doubt in my mind that this will be a best seller. It is a page-turner and very accessible. It is a beautiful book, a real literary achievement in its own right. It is a credit to her that this book is likely to be read by so many because it deserves a very large audience.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-0from 248 readers
PUBLISHER: Random House (April 13, 2010)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
EXTRAS: Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: More author’s like Anna Quindlen:

Sue Miller

Jodi Picoult

Anita Shreve



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May 1, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags:  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Contemporary, Family Matters

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