Title: Every Last One
Author: Anna Quindlen
Challenges: Read 'n' Review Challenge
First Sentence: "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."
Summary (From back of book):
Mary Beth Latham is first and foremost a mother whose three teenage children come first, before her career as a landscape gardener or even her life as the wife of a doctor. Caring for her family and preserving their everyday life is paramount. And so when one of her sons, Max, becomes depressed, Mary Beth becomes focused on him, only to be blindsided by a shocking act of violence. What happens afterward is a testament to the power of a woman's love and determination and to the invisible line of hope and healing that connects one human being to another.
Ultimately, as rendered in Anna Quindlen's mesmerizing prose, Every Last One is a novel about facing every last one of the things we fear most, about finding ways to navigate a road we never intended to travel, about living a life we never dreamed we'd have to live but must be brave enough to try.
My Two Cents:
This was my first Anna Quindlen novel, but it certainly won't be my last. Once I started reading it, I couldn't put it down and managed to finish more than half the book in one morning.
Mary Beth is the kind of mother that every kid wants to have, but pretends not to like having. She cares deeply about her children and wants to make sure that their lives are on an even keel. She puts all her focus on them, making dinners, shuttling to practices and getting to know their friends, and sometimes she loses herself in her job as mother. I found that she was an incredibly believable character and my heart absolutely broke when the tragedy of the novel struck. Mary Beth, along with everyone else, was taken so by surprise by the event and had no idea how to carry on her life afterward, but she slowly manages to come back to life and put the broken pieces of herself back together.
Actually, there wasn't a character I didn't like or feel some sympathy for in this book, short of a few of the more peripheral characters. I loved all three of Mary Beth's kids, her husband Glen, the kids' friends, everyone. I don't usually find a novel that I liked so well in which I liked all of the characters. There's usually got to be some conflict between me and one of the characters (In other words, I have to not like someone) for me to be satisfied. But, with this book, I liked everyone.
Quindlen's narration style took a little adjusting to get used to at first, and I originally thought I wasn't going to like the book as a result. She presents Mary Beth's thoughts in a very straightforward, urgent manner. I usually like a little bit more flower in my prose, but it worked well for this book and the quick-fire pace of the narration seemed to slow down a little as the ball got rolling.
This is a great book for those who like women's fiction and strong female characters.