Book Review: Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Title: Every Last One
Author: Anna Quindlen
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Random House
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: ARC from the Library Thing
First line: This is my life: The alarm goes off at five-thirty with the murmuring of a public-radio announcer, telling me that there has been a coup in Chad, a tornado in Texas.

Mary Beth Latham’s life is one of a woman who is first and foremost a wife and mother. She has a landscape gardening business that keeps her busy during the week, but most of her time and energies are spent on her three teenage children and her husband, Glenn. Their oldest daughter, Ruby, is getting ready to finish high school and head off to college, and is dealing with moving on from her high school boyfriend. The fraternal twins, Max and Alex, are entering the turbulent years of high school. Mary Beth is worried about Max, who seems to be having a hard time dealing with adolescence and the popularity of his twin, whom he is nothing like. When Max starts therapy and begins to get better, Mary Beth is cautiously optimistic that her family is again on the right track, aside from the normal teenage angst. She couldn’t be more wrong – an unthinkable act of violence will leave her reeling and adrift, wondering if she can even begin to pick up the pieces of her life.

I love Anna Quindlen’s work – she isn’t afraid to go places with her characters that we are all terrified to go in our lives. I had no idea that this book would have such a profound emotional effect on me. At times, I found myself crying so hard that I had to set the book aside, but only for a few minutes, because I couldn’t bear to leave Mary Beth’s story. I felt I knew her; I became protective of her and angry at those who in their stupidity or malice hurt her; I loved her friends Alice and Olivia because of their unquestioning support and love for her.

When something terrible happens in a family, it is often the reaction of people to blame the parents, thinking – or worse, saying – that they should have known, that they should have somehow protected their family. I think the reason people do that is because that makes the event something that was preventable, not a random act that could happen to any one of us. As I read Every Last One, I was often stunned at how unthinking and unfeeling people can be toward those who are grieving. I also was reminded that if we have true friends, we are never left to bear the disasters of life alone.

Though this is an emotionally wrenching book, it is a beautifully written one that explores the strength of a mother’s love and one woman’s inner will to survive all that life has thrown at her.

(Disclosure: An ARC of Every Last One was provided to me by Library Thing for the purpose of review. Many of the links on my site are Amazon affiliate links. If you click on one of these links and subsequently purchase anything, I will receive a small percentage in commission.)

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13 Responses to Book Review: Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

  1. Thank you for such a great review, Carrie. I really enjoyed the book by this author that I read and do want to read more. This sounds like a book that will stay with you long after you finish it.
    .-= Literary Feline´s last blog ..Question of the Day: Book Buying =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Wendy – it definitely sticks with you – I even dreamed about it last night.

  2. Pingback: BOOKS AND MOVIES » June Reading Wrap-up

  3. JoAnn
    Twitter: lakesidemusing
    says:

    I’ve enjoyed Anna Quindlen’s books, but haven’t read her lately. This one sounds very good!
    .-= JoAnn´s last blog ..Short Story Monday: "Doctor Jack-o’-Lantern" by Richard Yates =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      JoAnn – It is – and it reminded me that I want to read more of her non-fiction, since I loved How Reading Changed My Life and Imagined London.

  4. Sandy
    Twitter: youvegottaread
    says:

    I remember reading a review or two on this one, and I remember it just wrung out the reader. These books scare me, but I know I need to just man up and read them!
    .-= Sandy´s last blog ..The Heart Is Not a Size – Beth Kephart =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sandy – I think any book that deals with a mother’s worst fears are hard to read – especially when the author is such a brilliant writer.

  5. Sharla says:

    I love Anna Quindlen’s books! She’s a great writer. I watched her give a reading on Fora.tv, that I still go back and rewatch every so often because she’s so good at connecting with her readers and listeners.

    Can’t wait to read this book. Great review!
    .-= Sharla´s last blog ..June: Mega Month of Book Giveaways =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Sharla – I sat down this evening and read her two short books: Being Perfect and A Short Guide to a Happy Life – I love the way she thinks – and writes!

  6. amy s. says:

    I’ve had this sitting on my shelf for some time and keep meaning to read it. Have heard great things and I like some of Quindlen’s other work. must read soon.
    .-= amy s.´s last blog ..Hottest Guy in Eyeliner: Billie Joe Armstrong =-.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Amy – one of the best things about Quindlen is that she writes women characters that seem like someone you could know – very real.

  7. Wendy says:

    Carrie: I’m nearly done with the book – I was sobbing last night as I read until 1:00 am. I think what Quindlen does so well is she makes her characters real people. I feel like I know Mary Beth and her family – they have a physicality that elevates them above simply characters in a book…so when the horror unfolds it feels like these are people I know and care about. Just devastating. Quindlen is an amazing writer.

    • CarrieK
      Twitter: booksandmovies
      says:

      Wendy – yes, she is! And it was heart-breaking and devastating – I definitely shed more than a few tears over this book.