They say never judge a book by it’s cover and it’s true. Amidst the temptation to categorise one book as ‘trashy’ or another as a ‘literary classic’ lies the trap of either setting yourself up for serious disappointment, or missing out on a truly great book.
I nearly fell prey to my own hasty judgements when I disregarded ‘Every Last One’ last summer. It appeared on Richard and Judy’s summer list and I was quick to type cast it as chic lit, or a throwaway mystery. How wrong I was! Recently I decided to give the book ago and was pleasantly shocked to discover that my misconceptions were just that and I’d judged the book all wrong.
On paper Mary Beth has it all, a loving husband, two twin sons and a vibrant and outgoing teenage daughter. But when cracks begin to appear in the fissure of her family life, Mary Beth feels the solid ground beneath her feet start to shake.
Her son Max has being acting strangely and even his siblings and teachers fear for his increasingly introverted behaviour. Side tracked by doing all she can to help Max, Mary Beth seems almost to miss the even stranger problems that have entered her daughters life. Ruby has just broke up with her first serious boyfriend, Kieran, and no matter what she does he can’t accept her decision, refusing to leave her alone.
Mary Beth is determined to protect and nurture those she loves, to do anything to make sure they don’t come to harm. But in a shocking and completely unpredictable twist midway through the book Quindlen turns Mary’s world upside down and proves that even the most earnest and fierce of loves is sometimes not enough.
I wont spoil the book for first time readers, but I truly was thrown by what occurred and couldn’t have predicted it. Perhaps this teamed with the emotional journey that Mary takes, might explain why I was so personally moved and touched by the novel.
We all tell ourselves, do we not, that if we love strongly enough we can protect our loved ones? If we pay enough attention and do all of the right things surely we will see harm when it comes? But what if like Mary you made a small mistake years ago, which inconsequential though it may seem, may in fact have set a chain reaction of tragic events?
This is certainly what Mary Beth must consider in the aftermath of her family tragedy. And yet despite the severity of what does occur this is no dramatic ‘firework show’ of a book. I had presumed that this was just another mystery novel, but how wrong I was.
Quindlen take a shocking event and masterfully entwine’s it with what is a very human story. There is something intimate in the way she allows us to slowly become a part of Mary Beth’s world and therefore a part of the terrible fate she suffers. And yet a feeling of optimism uplifts this book and we like Mary Beth learn never to give up hope even when there is only the faintest sense of it.
Mary Beth has lost everything, or has she? Maybe there is always something worth fighting for and we should never stop loving, never stop caring or protecting. By the end of the novel I, like Mary Beth could begin to see a light in the end of a dark tunnel and I admired the way Qunidlen had led me to really appreciate the true strength love.
I’d really recommend this book. It has that perfect balance between a plot that has you hooked and a message at its heart that stays with you. That was my first Quindlen book but wont be my last. Any recommendations please?