Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (2010) is an honest, heart-wrenching look at what happens when a family living a relatively nice, regular life is destroyed by an act of horrific violence.

Quindlen does an excellent job of creating the pre-violent act family through the eyes of Mary Beth Latham, mother to three teenagers, wife to an ophthamologist, and head of a thriving landscaping business. We see husband Glen (successful, caring, almost boring), daughter Ruby (senior, poet, going through the beginnings of withdrawing from her family and exerting her independence), and twin sons Alex (the star athlete and outgoing) and Max (talented in a less public way, dealing with depression issues, and not quite sure of his place in the world or his own family). They're experiencing all of the normal angst of family life intertwined with the usual day-to-day living and normal joys.

Yes, you as the reader see the tragedy coming, and you wonder at the way in which most of the characters don't see what's developing. (I think Ruby may have, to some extent, but how much can she do at her age?) I think that's the reality, though, in that most people don't necessarily see those around them objectively enough to anticipate someone intentionally destroying them.

The important part is when, after one New Year's Eve, the family dwindles to two. That's when the true heart of the book develops, for how can the two survivors go on without the others? How are they changed forever by what happens, and how do they learn to move forward--sometimes helped by those around them and sometimes hindered?

If you enjoy books about coming to terms with loss and grief, you'll likely appreciate this one.

You can learn more at the author's site here.

My overall personal rating of Every Last One is a B.


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