Friday, July 23, 2010

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Anna Quindlen is my hero. She has an incredible ability to vividly yet succinctly describe a scene. Reading her prose is effortless; I never feel like I am wading through unnecessary text, yet I can perfectly envision the world she narrates. Honestly, I have read almost none of Quindlen's more well-known column writing, but I have read every novel she has written so I couldn't wait to get my hands on Every Last One. I finished it yesterday and sat thinking, "Wow."

If you have never read any of Quindlen's fiction, be forewarned. Her books are heavy! And emotional. I cry more reading her than almost any other author. Yet, I respect the dilemmas Quindlen forces her characters to face much more than other author's emotive problem-driven plots (think Jodi Picoult). For me, Quindlen doesn't force a particular emotional response on her readers. Her characters are flawed and human rather than idealistic or purely bad. She doesn't tell a reader how they should respond to a situation; instead she presents the situation and allows the reader to decide how they feel about what happened. Moreover, Quindlen doesn't give away the plot on the dust jacket. I will say, the crisis in Every Last One caught me off-guard. I was completely blind-sided by the events that unfolded in the story. At 3 am I lay in bed sobbing with the main character.

Without giving away too much of the plot, the story of Every Last One revolves around a normal all-American family: a doctor father, a part-time working mother, a 17-year old daughter thinking about college, and twin 15-year old brothers one who plays soccer and the other who plays the drums. The daughter breaks up with her long-term boyfriend, the drum-playing son suffers from depression, the mom ponders her childrens' futures. The reality of Quindlen's characters is what gives her book power. We can all imagine ourselves or our neighbors in Quindlen's fictional family. The realism is what gives the tragedy even greater weight.

I would not recommend reading Every Last One at the beach, or anywhere else in public. But I strongly recommend reading it. It really makes you think.

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