Monday, August 31, 2015

Review of In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

Basic plot: (from goodreads) 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.

On a scale from 1 to Cripplingly Depressing: The thing that surprised me the most about this book was the way the airplane crashes were written.  Reports of plane crashes make for serious reading, and while Blume doesn't shy away from the impact they had on the community, it is by no means a dim and grim book. (Should it have been? I wasn't sure.)

Memories from reading: This was an all-weekend read as I was in the middle of moving - lots of sitting at the kitchen/dining room table and on the deck (when I got desperate for some sun).

Best Bits: I loved the voice that Blume used while telling the individual stories and that of the community of Elizabeth, NJ.  It made me understand why so many women and girls (and boys and men!) love her books.  If I had been more exposed to her books as a kid, I think I would have loved them too.  The characters were beautifully written.  It was just right - the voice of a friend, not too old, not too young, very relatable.  In this context, however, in a book marketed towards adults, I felt it was a bit odd.  At certain points it did feel like the book was written for children and a little simplistic - but the material was very dark, and at other times quite mature.  I wasn't sure if the actual experience felt like an episode from The Twilight Zone, but reading about it definitely felt that way to me.  Overall, I would say it was beautifully written but unusual.

Teeth-gnashing: I was definitely not a fan of Natalie.  I think that her storyline, while important, wasn't addressed in depth and felt a bit tired as a result.  I would also have loved to have heard more from Miri as an adult.

Favorite character(s): Uncle Henry.

Weapon of Choice: Hardcover, borrowed from a friend.

Other titles by this author: Too many to list them all!
Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
Then Again, Maybe I Won't

Have you read In the Unlikely Event? What did you think?

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