Release Date: June 2, 2015
In her highly anticipated new novel, Judy Blume, the New York Times # 1 best-selling author of Summer Sisters and of young adult classics such as Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, creates a richly textured and moving story of three generations of families, friends and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed by unexpected events.
In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.
In the Unlikely Event is vintage Judy Blume, with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume’s unparalleled storytelling, and full of memorable characters who cope with loss, remember the good times and, finally, wonder at the joy that keeps them going. (courtesy of Goodreads)
Like many girls my age, I read Judy Blume's books from a young age - starting with the Fudge books. I have fond memories of her books but not the worshipful view many people have. I think that's because I read her risque books like Forever and Tiger Eyes when I was 9 and all the smexy times went right over my head. Still, any new Judy Blume book is worth reading.
In The Unlikely Event has gotten mixed reviews. To my own surprise, I loved it. It is exactly the book I hoped it would be. The best combination of historical fiction, coming-of-age, family drama, and even a bit thriller-ish. I finished the book in less than a day, which included staying up until 2 AM one night.
One of the more criticized features of the book is the points of view. It's told from the perspective of about 20 people! Some are people who are repeated throughout the book. Some are only featured once or twice. The downside of using so many people is that the book gets confusing. There are so many characters, it was hard to tell them apart. I generally figured it out, but it often took quite a bit of time. Arguably, it also makes the book feel disjointed. However, I loved the feature. I made the book feel so much richer. Miri Ammerman is the character around which the book revolves. If the story was told only from her perspective, we would miss so much of her world. Despite the confusion, the multiple points of view transforms the world of Elizabeth, New Jersey from one dimensional to three dimensional.
My favorite part of the book was the setting - 1950s Elizabeth, New Jersey. The book was chock full of 1950s feeling, so much so that I was transported. It felt like a simpler time, although the problems of the characters were neither simple nor different from ours today. Still, there was a sheen of innocence and quaintness that was charming. I could have happily read a book about Miri's everyday teenage life without the excitement of the plane crashes.
The plot flows very quickly and is engrossing despite being confusing at times. It is very true to the plane crashes, which were true events. The fictional events are a bit overwrought and soap opera-ish. Nevertheless, it was fun to read and fit together nicely at the end. Also, there was the sexy times you'd expect from a Judy Blume book. It basically felt like a slightly more detailed version of what was in her YA books (although as I said above, I don't remember much of them).
In The Unlikely Event was a delightful read about a brief and strange period of time. It features lots (and lots and lots) of characters both good and bad who I came to care about. If this ends up being Blume's final book, I think she's had a great send-off.
Recommendation: Definitely read!
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