Wednesday, August 18, 2010

book review: Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Every Last One: A Novel
The backstory: I really enjoyed Anna Quindlen's last novel Rise and Shine, so I was eager to read her newest one.

The basics: Every Last One is the story of Mary Beth Latham, a wife and mother of three: Ruby, a high school senior, and fraternal twins Max and Alex, who are ninth grade.

My thoughts: I do enjoy Quindlen's use of language, and these characters were certainly dynamic. It seemed obvious to me that something was looming over these characters from early on in the book. I felt like a very paranoid reader as warning signs piled up and didn't explode. Then, when I didn't actually suspect it, Quindlen drops this novel into a completely different place. I won't spoil it for you, but I will tell you I was reading it in a coffee shop and my jaw dropped open and I audibly gasped. Yes, it's dark, but I think it's authentic. What I'm unsure about it is if it's necessary. I am not opposed to depressing novels, but I do want the emotions authors make me feel to be worthwhile, and I don't think Quindlen met that challenge here. Ultimately, I don't believe this story needed to be told. I'm sure there will be readers who disagree with me, but I didn't especially enjoy the novel, even though I enjoyed the characters and the writing. It started with promise, as Mary Beth recalled the night she met her husband:
"Sometimes I remind myself that I almost skipped the party, that I almost went to a different college, that the whim of a minute could have changed everything and everyone. Our lives, so settled, so specific, are built on happenstance." (page 72, ARC)
I cried through the last hundred pages, so it's hard to say I wasn't emotionally engaged, but I was unsatisfied.  After thoroughly enjoying Rise and Shine, I was disappointed.

The verdict: Despite strong writing and characters, this novel didn't work for me. If you like weepy women's fiction with depth, you may like this novel. If you like more nuanced substance, read Rise and Shine instead.

Rating: 3 stars
Length: 300 pages
Publication date: April 13, 2010
Source: I received this book for review from the publisher via Crazy Book Tours.

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  1. I liked this one better than Rise and Shine, actually. But I had the same reaction that you did to the "twist" (although I kind of hate to call it that) - I had to re-read that page two or three times to make sure I'd gotten it right!

  2. Hmm...I'm reading this one now and I can sense the "twist" coming (I'm at about page 100), but don't know what to expect.

  3. I was on the fence about this one but now, after reading your review, I am pretty sure this book is not for me!

  4. @Florinda - I remember hearing mixed things about Rise and Shine, particularly those who read her earlier novels. I'm glad you enjoyed this one more than I did!

    @S. Krishna - I'll look forward to reading your review and hearing your thoughts on the "twist!"

    @Stephanie - It's definitely not for everyone, but I've read more positive than negative reviews.

  5. Hmmmm...I used to love Quindlen but I HATED "Rise and Shine" and wasn't going to read this one. But then you've got me curious.

    I'm also mad at her for publishing these little books that are really just essays and charging $12 for them. Urgh.

  6. My sentiments exactly! This just was not that good IMO. I really enjoyed reading your thoughts; thanks so much

  7. @Jenners - I'd be curious to see your response to this one since you didn't like Rise and Shine. Perhaps opposite audiences?

    @Bibliophile - I'm glad to have someone agree with me!


Thank you for taking the time to comment. Happy reading!