Every Last One – Book Review

Every day, with few variations – snow, minor illnesses, the failure of the paper to arrive, a lost backpack, a sleepover that’s left us one, or two, or sometimes even three kids shy of the usual full set – every day is like this. Average. Ordinary. More or less. – from Every Last One, page 11 –

Mary Beth Latham lives in a small New England town with her three teenage children (twin fourteen year old boys, Max and Alex, and seventeen year old Ruby), her ophthalmologist husband, Glen, and their ten year old dog Ginger. Life is ordinary, if not a little challenging. Max (one of the twins) is a bit of a geek, the odd boy out…and struggles with depression as his brother, Alex, excels at sports and is the popular kid at school. Ruby longs to be a writer; sensitive, introspective, and with an inner beauty, she is growing into a young woman who is thinking of college as she enters her senior year of high school. Ruby is ready to say good-bye to her boyfriend, Kiernan, who has been a fixture in the lives of all the Lathams, a boy who has played in their backyard, shared their dinner table, and helped Max with school projects. Mary Beth loves Glen, but the marriage has become almost too predictable. As she goes off to work at her landscaping business every morning, she wonders if this is all there will be.

The first 150 pages of Every Last One is dedicated to these characters – their dreams, their flaws, their every day routines. I found myself laughing more than once, smiling, nodding my head. Yes, I thought, I recognize this family. They are like so many people I know. But, woven through their stories is a sense that everything is not as it seems. The problems which appear so ordinary have a darkness around the edges. Then suddenly, in just two pages, a horrifying, indescribable act of violence changes everything.

I read the last half of this incredible novel with tears streaming down my cheeks. I sobbed. I found myself unable to let the story go when I would close the book to go to sleep at night. I talked to my husband about Mary Beth, Glen, Ruby, Max and Alex as though these were my friends; people I knew and had come to love. And that is the beauty of this novel: Anna Quindlen creates characters that feel so real, who have such potential, who come alive on the page…that the reader becomes completely engrossed in their stories. As Mary Beth struggles to cope with what has happened to her family, the reader is right there by her side, grieving, seeking answers and trying to move forward with her.

Every Last One is a novel about what it means to put one foot in front of the other after an unspeakable tragedy. It is about the inner strength we all carry but hope we never have to rely on. It is a reminder that life is precious and can change instantly; that what we have is a gift we should treasure. This is also a book about what it means to be happy – the fleeting moments that come and go, the ordinariness of life’s little pleasures are the building blocks of happiness – and they are tenuous, fragile, unexpected.

You can’t plan them, although I suppose those people who meditate and practice yoga think you can, but there are those moments when we experience physical happiness despite ourselves, before our minds remind us of the reasons we shouldn’t. A slight breeze, a warming sun, a little bird music: Your senses say something before your good sense says something different. If only we could be creatures of the body more often. – from Every Last One, page 276 –

Anna Quindlen is an extraordinarily gifted writer who has given her readers a novel which is unforgettable. Poignant, beautifully rendered, achingly sad, but joyously hopeful…Every Last One is a book which left me emotionally drained. I loved this novel and its immensely likable characters. This was not a book which I simply read, finished and put away in the bookcase. I kept coming back to it, even after I had finished reading. I did not want to say good-bye.

Readers who love character driven novels, who are not afraid to take a journey through grief and recovery, and who want to read a novel which packs an emotional punch, will want to read Every Last One. I promise, it is not a book you will soon forget.

Highly recommended.

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FTC Disclosure: This book was sent to me by the publisher as part of a TLC Book Tour.

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    • Nicole on March 29, 2011 at 20:33

    This sounds so good and it looks like you really enjoyed it. I read Black and Blue, which I think may have been her first book ad never read anything else by her because I was just so devastated by what I had read, especially the end! This is very tempting.

  1. Excellent review. I had the same reaction as you when I got to the climax. It’s very rare that I’ll sob (ok, bawl) while reading a book, but this one did me in. I still think about the book, which I reviewed almost a year ago (here. Quindlen definitely got it right. I wish I had an opportunity to sit down and talk to her about the book and how strongly it affected me.

  2. What a beautiful and heartfelt review! I have been seeing a lot of reviews on this book, and so far, not a bad one yet. It sounds as if this would be a book that I would really enjoy and one that I am going to have to add to my list. I need an unforgettable book right now! Thanks for sharing your great review!

  3. I loved this book as well – I cried my eyes out, and still today I get choked up when I think about it.

  4. I’m sure I’ll sob when I read this, but I’m really looking forward to it.

  5. I completely agree with everything you said about this book – it truly was emotional and brilliantly written.

  6. This sounds like an amazing read! I’m definitely going to try this one. Thanks for your review 🙂 Despite being sad at times, I love finding a book that gets readers emotionally involved in the characters.

  7. WOW what a review! This book sounds so great. I pitched it to my book club but it didn’t get voted in so I’ll be reading it solo. I’ll come back and comment after I read it! Thanks so much for being on this tour. I’m thrilled that you enjoyed it so much.

  8. This sounds so good. And, as always, great review!

    • Marie on March 31, 2011 at 12:08

    Awesome review! I loved this book and I agree with everything you wrote.

  9. I was so numb by the end of this book, I couldn’t cry until it was over. This book was so shocking and real – great, great review.

    • Wendy on April 3, 2011 at 06:34

    Nicole: I have not yet Black and Blue – although I have heard it is wonderful…and devastating…like this one!

    Les: This was a very affecting book – like you, I don’t sob during books too often. The last one that did this to me was The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak. I think it is a sign of a talented writer who can evoke those kinds of emotions in their readers.

    Heather: You’re welcome. I do think you should read this one – it is truly wonderful, although very heartbreaking too.

    Coffee and Book Chick: SO glad you also loved this one – so moving.

    Kathy: I hope you love it

    • Wendy on April 3, 2011 at 06:36

    Carrie K: Glad you also loved the book. I can’t stop thinking about it.

    Teacher/Learner: This one DEFINITELY will reel you in. Hope you love it.

    Lisa: I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this one…

    Wallace: thank you 🙂

    Marie: Thanks…so glad the book resonated with you as well.

    Swapna: thank you! I agree – the book was numbing, wasn’t it? One of those books you want to talk to others about after they’ve read it.

  10. I read this book and nearly started hyperventilating! It is a story that sticks and makes me want to cry now just thinking about it. Extremely well written, but then most of hers are

    • Wendy on April 11, 2011 at 07:16

    Kristen: I know what you mean – when the tragedy begins to unfold, I kept saying under my breath “oh no, oh no”… my palms started to sweat!

    • Wendy on October 25, 2011 at 08:22

    For some reason this post is getting a ton of spam comments – for that reason, I am closing comments here. My apologies to those of you who would like to legitimately leave a comment.

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