every last one

Anna Quindlen’s newest novel, Every Last One, follows in the vein of her others with its focus on family — and on tragedy.  Mary Beth Latham — mother, wife, landscaper — is comfortable in her life, a life that largely revolves around her three teenagers.  Her family isn’t without its problems, past or present, the most immediately pressing of which seems to be the increasing depression of one her twin sons.  As well, her daughter Ruby is coping with her first serious break-up, and her boys are struggling to define their relationship and find their own places as they start high school.  Mary Beth, in turn, is forced to play the balancing act all parents of adolescents must face — when to get involved, and when to let go.  But then violence strikes her family, and Mary Beth must come to terms with an entirely new life, complete with new questions and new balancing acts.

 Needless to say, Quindlen’s novels – this one in particular – are not exactly cheerful reads.  But they’re honest ones.  Quindlen’s portrait of the Latham family is detailed and sincere.  Though the father remains a bit on the peripheral, the characterization of 17-year-old Ruby and her younger brothers Max and Alex — their attitudes, their dialogue, their relationships with their parents and each other — feels authentic.  And with the story being told through Mary Beth, we see each of them through a mother’s eyes.  It’s nearly impossible not to feel a part of the family, to cringe or sigh or laugh along with Mary Beth.   

Or cry.  Because (and I’m trying not to give too much away here) when tragedy strikes, it is heartbreaking, for her and for us.  But it’s not melodramatic.  Quindlen tells her story skillfully, but evenly, allowing for the emotion of the characters to ring true, but not to overwhelm. 

This is a novel where, if I chose to, I could summarize the entire plot in a few brief sentences. But to summarize the wealth of characters would be a different matter entirely; it is in the characters where the true story lies.  And it’s in the creating and telling of those characters where Quindlen’s talent lies.

WHO: Anna Quindlen
WHAT: Every Last One
WHERE: Purchased e-book
WHEN: April 2010
WHY: Fan of Quindlen’s work
HOW: E-book

~ by Molly on May 13, 2010.

2 Responses to “every last one”

  1. Thanks, Molly! I think I’m going to take the plunge.

  2. […] every last one […]

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