Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Every Last One is the type of book that I can’t write about without including spoilers. I’ve hidden the Goodreads version of my review, but if you’re reading this on my blog, please be forewarned – THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS.
Anna Quindlen did a marvelous job creating a book about raising a family. The type of problems Mary Beth had with her daughter, Ruby, and her sons, Alex and Max, were interesting enough to work on their own. They were adolescent problems about dating and picking colleges and participating in sports and feeling insecure around other people. Then, about halfway through the story Quindlen brings the book to a new level with a massive act of violence. For me, the violence was unexpected, but there were many clues in the earlier section that should have warned me.
The section of the book that follows the destruction of Mary Beth’s family is a story of grief and of going on with life. Quindlen writes about the small details, until the reader can feel exactly what Mary Beth and Alex are going through.
Mary Beth’s ex friend, Deborah, blames Mary Beth for everything that’s gone wrong because of a short affair Mary Beth had with Deborah’s husband, Kevin.
Ruby had introduced Mary Beth to the concept of “The Butterfly Effect” ...how the beating of their wings in Mexico could cause a breeze in our backyard. The idea of a connection between everything in life comes with guilt for her. She wonders about what she did, thinking, I was unfaithful, which for a mother is not simply betrayal of a man but of a family and a vocation? Did I trade my ordinary, average, perfect life for hasty couplings on a cement floor?
But the timing of the physical relationship between Mary Beth and Kevin indicates that the affair was not the cause. They had sex after Kevin and Deborah's youngest child, Declan, had drowned in their swimming pool. And Kevin had been sleeping with other women in the community before that tragedy occurred. Of course, Mary Beth cannot explain the order of the events to her former friend without confessing to her adultery.
Every Last One is written extremely well with full, unique characters and a great attention to detail. It presents ideas about grief, family life, and human failing that are fascinating.
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