I might not have made it past page 50 if this weren’t “the new Judy Blume,” but I felt an emotional attachment to the author and to finishing it. By the end, I was so glad I did. Judy Blume still has much to say about love and honesty in adolescence and beyond, in a voice that is at once familiar and new. I am grateful for the hours I’ve spent in her wise company – not a few.
My main piece of advice to you is to buy or borrow a hard copy of this book. Downloading it on a kindle or other e-reader would be disastrous. Blume introduces a large cast of characters very quickly, and it’s hard to keep them straight. You will definitely be thumbing back to remind yourself who’s who (unless you are a genius).
In the Unlikely Event spins a fictional web around three airplane crashes in Elizabeth, New Jersey during the winter of 1951-52. Blume grew up in Elizabeth and was in 8th grade at the time. She sets the stage with a complicated cast of characters in order to populate these flights. At the risk of sounding horribly insensitive, it seems to me that the novel becomes more powerful once some of these characters die and the narrative thread settles on 15-year-old Mirabelle and her family. I was also relieved when Blume slowed down on the 1950’s era product placement after the first third of the book or so. After a while the references just felt like they cluttered the story.
You’ll recognize Blume’s deft touch with Mirabelle. She captures with painful accuracy the complicated feelings of adolescence, when we learn that our parents are not perfect and develop intense friendships that can be both exhilirating in their intimacy and devastating in their disappointments. Perhaps my favorite thing about Judy Blume is that she doesn’t look down on young love or think it is something less than it is. The love story of Mirabelle and Mason is tender and true.
Blume honors the mystery of romantic love at any age. In this novel, you’ll find adolescent love, middle-aged love, and elderly love – all of them convincingly portrayed, to the extent that you can describe something fundamentally ineffable. Why is it that you feel a deep affinity for one person and not another – and that person feels it back – which then allows for the growth of something deeper?
For a very moving interview with Blume on how she came to write this book, please click here. Her spirit shines brightly and beautifully at age 77.
How timely for me — I just read a review of this book and put it on my summer reading list! But I would disagree with you about format choice — one of the things I love about reading on my iPad is that when I can’t recall a character I can do a simple search for the name and it pulls up every single reference, context. For particularly complex books like Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life in which seemingly minor characters re-emerge as major players as the story is retold, the ability to read backwards through the search function is invaluable!
Sara, thank you! My comment shows you how little experience I have with iPad reading. I can see how that would be helpful and I hereby retract my advice! Especially for those who know how to navigate their devices. 🙂 I read in an interview with Blume (see link in post) that she had wanted to give readers a chart showing the relationships between the characters but her editor dissuaded her. The editor said “trust your readers.” Hmmm. I think I would have found a chart helpful. Thank you again for your comment, Sara, and I hope you and your family are enjoying the summer! xo
Jen, I can always count on you to tell me what’s up with new books to read. Judy Blume is my girl! I want to be her.
I hear you, Lyn! I admire her so much too! It is wonderful to watch your journey as a writer. You are already like her in many ways – particularly in the honesty you bring to the adolescent experience in your work. You don’t shy away from the hard stuff. xo