Review: ‘Every last one’ (Anna Quindlen)

I have just finished reading a slew of Very Good Books recently.  The kind that I lose sleep over, staying up until silly o’clock to finish just one more chapter.  Lisa See’s “Dreams of Joy” and its prequel “Shanghai Girls” had me in tears.  Kristen Hannah’s “Night Road” was heartbreaking and impossible to put down.  I have a huge TBR pile, and last week I picked this little number up.

I felt in the mood for something with a plot, something fiction.  To be honest I was looking for something a bit more lighthearted, which this book is not. The narrative centers around Mary Beth Latham, a suburban housewife and mother of three teenagers.  On the surface things seem peachy…Mary Beth owns and runs a successful landscape gardensing company; she has a loving husband, twin teenaged boys, and a daughter about to go off to university.

To begin with, the plotline is reminiscent of Kirsten Hannah’s “Night Road”.  By the end of that book, I found it quite painful to read, because I knew the outcome.  I found myself still awake at 3am unable to put it down.  In some parts the plot was confusing – the author leads us to believe all through the beginning of the narrative that Mary Beth’s estrangement from her neighbour and former best friend Deborah was down to an affair, then later the “event” that set off the detoriation of their friendship was the tragic death of Deborah’s young son.  I found it disconcerting and anticlimactic to find out it was the affair that had set the chain of events in motion, as if taking away from the impact of the child’s death and replacing it with yet another ubiquitous bored suburban housewife’s affair.

I have to admit, I didn’t get into this book until quite near the end, after the catalyst leading to the total destruction of Mary Beth’s Stepford Life.  So though I knew the outcome, I found it difficult to stop reading.  Though I enjoyed reading it, I feel the author glossed over some aspects and spent a little too much time establishing Mary Beth’s “perfect” existence. The second part of this book deals almost enirely with Mary Beths feeling’s, with little to nothing in the way of actual events.  If you’re the type of reader who likes to find a neat conclusion at the end, this is probably not the book for you.  I don’t know if this will lead me to read other works by the same author.

I enjoyed reading this, though I have to admit if it hadn’t been on offer at Waterstones, I probably would never have chosen it for myself.

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