Review of “Every Last One” by Anna Quindlen

Note: This review is by my husband Jim.

Mary Beth Latham is a prototypical suburban housewife. She has a fairly good marriage to an ophthalmologist, who has a reasonably successful practice. She has three teenaged children, two of whom seem very well adjusted. She has a moderately successful landscaping business that doesn’t prevent her from spending a lot of quality time with her family. She even has a nice dog.

She is a very conscientious and wise mother, who gives her children a judicious amount of guidance, but is not overbearing. She knows enough to let the well-adjusted ones (a boy and a girl) make their own choices, but devotes extra attention to the less happy boy. For the first 150 pages, we get to know the family and watch it go through a very mundane life in suburbia cum teenage growing pains. That doesn’t sound like much action, and it isn’t. Nevertheless, Anna Quindlen is such a good writer that the story moves along swiftly, with only the barest hint of the trouble ahead.

The trouble all occurs in two pages—a shocking murder that leaves Mary Beth with a much-reduced family to tend. In the subsequent 145 pages, we follow Mary Beth as she tries to cope with her new circumstances. Quindlen is especially apt at conveying the grief particular to the unexpected removal of loved ones from our lives. In addition, she alerts us to the guilt the characters feel. Not only are there the more usual nagging questions of “why didn’t I see? why didn’t I pay more attention?” but there is more: we learn that the survivors feel guilty about some indiscretions that may have contributed tangentially to the tragedy.

Evaluation: I found it easy to empathize with the characters, all of whom are well wrought. Quindlen is an excellent storyteller.

Rating: 4/5

Published by Random House, 2010

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15 Responses to Review of “Every Last One” by Anna Quindlen

  1. Margot says:

    I agree that Quindlen is an excellent storyteller. I used to read her books all the time. I don’t know why I wandered away. Thanks for telling us about this one. I’m going to have to find it.

  2. All the emotions that this book evoked for me felt very real–a great effort by Quindlen! I’m glad you liked it, too.

  3. Sandy says:

    Nice review Mr. Rhapsody! I’m going to tell my husband that yes, he too can enjoy a girl book!

  4. Julie P. says:

    Anna Quindlen used to be one of my favorite authors, so I’m definitely going to give this one a try.

  5. Alyce says:

    I’ve heard very good things about her writing. It’s so nice to know that this one appeals – even across gender lines. 🙂

  6. I so want to read this one…I’m so glad that you’ve embraced that inner girl Jim!!!

  7. stacybuckeye says:

    It’s been awhile since I read Quindlen, but this one is going on the wish list. Looks fantastic. Great review, Jim!

  8. Janelle says:

    My dad listens to ‘girly’ books on tape all the time so long as the story involves a murder or some other suspenseful moment.

  9. bermudaonion says:

    I love that your hubby enjoyed this book even though he considered it a “girl” book. That makes me really anxious to read the book.

  10. JoAnn says:

    Thanks for the review, Jim! I’ve read most of Quindlen’s novels, enjoyed them all, and will add this to my tbr list. Who knows, maybe I’ll even recommend it to my husband!

  11. Jenners says:

    You wouldn’t catch MY husband reading a girl book (or, well, any book at all, sadly).

    I’m glad to hear this because I was a pretty big fan of Quindlen but thought she totally lost it on her last few books (with Rise and Shine being particulary awful). I was ready to be done with her … but maybe she’ll get one last chance.

  12. diane says:

    Could I borrow your husband to read/review my stacks?. Seriously, this is one that I am looking forward to; thank the “hub” for me.

  13. Doret says:

    Thanks for this reviews. Now, I can sell this to children and dad’s for Mother’s day.

    I love this cover. Quindlen was very nice when she did a quick drop in to sign to the book

  14. Meg says:

    I have yet to come across a book by Quindlen I didn’t enjoy, and this sounds like no exception — though, wow! Heavy. I’ll probably grab it and hold off for when I’m looking for something serious.

  15. My husband sometimes reads what he considers “girl” books, but they’re more like this, not chick lit. 😉

    Glad to see you liked this one, as it’s on my shelf waiting to be read.

    –Anna

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