Laurel's Reviews > Every Last One

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen
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Feb 07, 2011

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bookshelves: fiction
Read from February 05 to 06, 2011

This was my first Quindlen book. I became curious about her after reading her high praise of Alice Sebold's The Lovely Bones (another book I didn't particularly enjoy). It's sort of funny because I felt these two books were quite similar in tone and even (partly) in subject matter.

Every Last One is hard to describe without giving too much away, but it deals quite intensely with issues of death, tragedy, depression and grief. In that sense, it's not what I would call an enjoyable read. Some of it is quite difficult to get through, in fact. However, most of the characters felt authentic to me, the writing was decent, and I was easily (if not reluctantly) pulled into their story and all their various dysfunctional relationships. I even found myself moved by the book's final words, perhaps in part because of my own situation.

Still, I wouldn't actually recommend this book. I found it a bit too disturbing and bleak. I wasn't sure I fully believed in the plausibility of the focal, tragic event for reasons I won't detail here so as to not reveal any major spoilers. I think I just found it all a little too horrific -- was it really necessary to take it that far? I also couldn't quite relate to the mother, nor to her initial reactions.

I do wonder if someone who is grieving, or who has gone through what feels like an unspeakable or incomprehensible tragedy, might (?) find some solace with the book's final message. What can you do when faced with the unimaginable? You can only try to go on as best you can, and get through it all one small moment at a time.

Still, I would have preferred this message be told with a bit more subtlety. 2.5 stars.
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Comments <span class="smallText"> (showing 1-7 of 7) </span> <span class="smallText">(7 new)</span>

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message 1: by Kathryn (last edited Feb 08, 2011 08:31AM) (new)

Kathryn From what I recall of Quindlen's op-ed pieces back in the 1980's, I think I can say that subtlety is not her forte!

Laurel Funny! I've never read any of her op-ed pieces (that I recall), but I think you are right! I felt she took her novel's turning point a bit too far to the extreme with this one.

Christy Very interesting review. My brother was murdered over a decade ago with my father dying suddenly a few months later and reading ELO, I felt like Ms. quindlen must have been sitting in our house unobserved, watching my mother and me try to pick up the pieces of our shattered lives. I thought she really "got it" and although it was hard to read her story and be drawn back to the early days of my own grief, it was cathartic.

message 4: by Laurel (last edited May 09, 2011 10:58AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Laurel **This comment contains spoilers**

Thanks for commenting, Christy. How tragic and awful about your brother and father. I can definitely see how this book would have been cathartic for you. It was one of the main things I came away with after reading it -- that perhaps it would be beneficial to someone who had experienced something similar.

I think part of me was just angry that the author went so far as to (spoiler alert!) kill off virtually the entire family. I thought the story would have been more effective (in terms of the mother not seeing what was in front of her) had the ex-boyfriend only killed the daughter. I felt maybe she had him kill the other family members as well so as to not have to deal with writing about their grief and anger, and focus primarily on the mother's. But perhaps not. Perhaps she wanted to look at tragedy in the extreme, and how one deals with that.

Jenny Faith Hey Laurel, just dropping a note here because I dont know how else to send you a msg. Haha. I added you as a friend because I wanted to follow your reviews. But I realised later that there is a "follow reviews" button, so you dont have to accept my friend request already. Haha. Thanks for this review, I appreciate it, & I have the same sentiments with some of your comments about this book. :)

Jenny Faith Just to add the author of The Lovely Bones is Alice Sebold and not Anna Quindlen. :)

message 7: by Laurel (last edited Sep 15, 2011 08:30AM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Laurel Thanks, Jenny. I do know Sebold is the author of The Lovely Bones -- I was commenting that I had read Quindlen's praise/review of that book, and that's how I became curious to read something by Quindlen (but not that she actually wrote The Lovely Bones). But thanks for pointing out that I wasn't clear; I made the correction in my review to add that clarity.

Thanks for wanting to follow my reviews! I don't write them as much anymore, unfortunately. But thanks for commenting and thanks for the friend request. :)

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