Review: Every Last One

Every Last One
Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I think this was another free Kindle book I picked up, and I started reading it solely because the author’s surname begins with Q and I need a Q for my list.

I didn’t know what this was about other than a family in America and an event … Looking back I’m glad I didnt know and I’d strongly recommend you learn as little as you can about this book before you read it. With that in mind, I’m going to try not to give too much away here.

Mary Beth is married to Glen, an ophthalmologist. She runs her own garden landscaping business but she’s first and foremost a mum.Ruby is the oldest of the kids; she’s in her last year at school before leaving for college, she has a good bunch of friends and is in a relationship with Kiernan, though she’s gradually outgrowing him. Then there’s Alex, an outgoing lad and budding sports star, and his twin brother Max, who loves drumming and comic books and is a sensitive soul. The first half of the book is languorously slow, beautifully detailed and gradually builds up a portrait of a family who are perfect in their imperfection. They are just an ordinary family – they could be yours. They could be mine.

Then something happens – and it’s a really big, life-changing something. The remainder of the novel looks at how the family deal with the event, and once again it’s almost luxuriously detailed – this is an author who uses ten words where many would use two, but not a single word is wasted.

Throughout the first half I felt a sense of loss – loss of childhood probably, because the family is at the stage where the children start to become adults and are no longer so dependent on their parents, and I really identified with the characters, because I’m at the same stage with my own children.

Then the Something happened … And strangely, I felt there was a real emotional disconnect, because though I was shocked by what happened it didn’t affect me emotionally. I’ve tried to work out why and I can think of three possible reasons – either the disconnect is deliberate so I experience the numb denial of the characters after the event, or that to feel the raw pain of the characters would be just too painful to bear so the author spared me it – or that though I felt like I knew the characters I didn’t feel for them, so couldn’t connect with their pain. I’d like to believe it was one of the first two reasons, though I fear it may be the third.

That aside, I felt this was a tremendous read and I would recommend it to others – though if you like action you’ll probably be disappointed.

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2 thoughts on “Review: Every Last One”

  1. Great review, Alison — really gives a feel for the book without any “spoilers.” I read this a couple of years ago, but it just occurred to me that it’s similar in the way the story is told to Disturbances in the Field, a novel by Lynne Sharon Schwartz. That’s nearly 30 years old, and also tells the story of an ordinary family and is, as you put it, “languorously slow, beautifully detailed.” And then the life-changing event that the family must deal with forever is upon them with no warning.

  2. Thanks! And thanks for the recommendation too – I’ve not heard of Disturbances in the Field but will keep an eye out for it (and have added it to my Amazon wish list!) The reviews are very good.

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