Sometimes I feel as though the entire point of a woman’s life is to fall in love with people who will leave her. The only variation I can see is the ones who fight the love, and the ones who fight the leaving. It’s too late for me to be the first, and I’m trying not to be the second.
Anna Quindlen’s 6th novel Every Last One is filled with the quiet detritus of every day life.
“This is my life: the alarm goes off at five-thirty…” thinks Mary Beth Latham, the novel’s narrator. Wife to Glen, mother to daughter Ruby, 17, and twins Max and Alex, 14, Mary Beth spends her days spinning the every day plates that keep families in motion and trying to carve out a little time for herself, something to remind her that she is more than just a wife and mother.
Mary Beth loves her family, but she doesn’t gloss over the difficulties of raising kids or trying to keep a marriage afloat. Ruby, an aspiring writer, is just about ready to leave home. The twins are as different as night and day and as Mary Beth finds herself focusing more and more on Max’s moodiness, she fails to acknowledge that Ruby’s ex-boyfriend, Kiernan, is trying too desperately to win Ruby back.
Quindlen does a masterful job of leading the reader towards a climax that – even if you see it coming – shocks the hell out of you. It’s her careful layering of life’s little details – the slights, the carelessness, the mistakes we make, family dinners, blow-ups and meltdowns, reconciliations – that add power to the book. Mary Beth isn’t a saint. And just like the rest of us, she’s forced to put one foot in front of the other and keep on walking, even when it doesn’t seem possible to take another step.
Anna Quindlen has the distinction of being the first author my book club ever read twelve years ago. We read Black and Blue for our first ever meeting and despite the subject matter (domestic abuse), we all really enjoyed it. A few years ago we read Rise and Shine, but I have to say I didn’t enjoy that one at all. Every Last One, while often difficult to read, confirms what I always thought about Quindlen’s talents though. It’s definitely worth a read.