on June 2nd 2015
Genres: Historical Fiction, Adult
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In her highly anticipated new novel, Judy Blume, the New York Times # 1 best-selling author of Summer Sisters and of young adult classics such as Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, creates a richly textured and moving story of three generations of families, friends and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed by unexpected events.\r\nIn 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life.\r\nThirty-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, Judy Blume imagines and weaves together a haunting story of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed by these disasters. 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.\r\nIn the Unlikely Event is a gripping novel with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume's unparalleled storytelling.\r\n
In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume was my neighborhood book club’s selection for January. As a big fan of Judy Blume in my younger years, I was looking forward to seeing how she would transition into an adult novel. I ended up reading the majority of the book in one sitting, during a long car ride. The thing that struck me the most about this book is that it is based on actual events. Three planes crashed in Elizabeth, NJ, over the course of 58 days in the early 1950’s. A teenage Judy Blume was living not too far from the site of the first crash, and while she didn’t see it, it certainly had a huge impact on her life. She did a great job of bringing the 50’s to life in vivid detail, from what they wore to the way they lived. The characters and locations felt very real and I had no trouble at all envisioning that time period. My only complaint about the story was the overabundance of characters. When we started a new POV, there were times when I would have to pause to remember exactly who that person was, and how they fit in to what was happening. There were some characters who were important and had chapters throughout, while others only served a small purpose (like making us feel the impact of the crashes even more deeply). I really liked the main character, Miri. Her emotions and decisions felt real, even as an adult. I enjoyed hearing about her family, and I also really liked her Uncle Henry, a journalist whose career was suddenly boosted by his reporting of the events. The crashes forever changed many lives in unimaginable ways. But even through the sadness, fear, and anger, there were still moments of hope and happiness. Several characters unexpectedly lost or found love, and some found new beginnings and lives they didn’t realize they were capable of leading. There were a few things that happened that even surprised me. I really liked that we got to find out how our main characters ended up years later (this isn’t a spoiler, since the book begins 35 years after the crashes). While this one probably won’t end up in my “read again and again” pile, I did find it to be a quick and enjoyable read.
“Life is a series of unlikely events, isn’t it? Hers certainly is. One unlikely event after another, adding up to a rich, complicated whole. And who knows what’s still to come?”