Monday, June 14, 2010

Every Last One: A Novel / by Anna Quindlen

"Always is such a very long time." (p.186)
Mary Beth Latham enjoys a good life. Residing in the same pleasant New England town she grew up in, she's a loving wife to all-around good guy husband Glynn, devoted mother and successful entrepeneur who strives to maintain quality business ethics. By all accounts she's faired a great deal better than her older sister Alice who's latest brainstorm netted a test tube baby and a disproportionate amount of stress and paranoia. The same goes for most of her friends, many of whom she's known all her life and are frequently divorced, cruelly discarded or otherwise tagged as "a mess", and always clamoring to Mary Beth for support.
Though her time and attention are heavily in demand, things are more concentrated on her kids' lives (and her kids' friends) at the moment, each a teenager and embattled with their own dilemmas. 17-year-old Ruby is (for the most part) an all-around great kid, so much so that Kiernan, her sensitive, emotionally damaged and pathetically clingy boyfriend, is decimated by Ruby's honest and dignified decision to dump him. As the aftermath of the young couple's breakup gets ugly, Mary Beth's already strained emotional stamina becomes taxed while meanwhile twins Max and Alex, an alarmingly different pair, are both 14 and enduring their own complicated trials of youth. Max, the unathletic, indoor type, is seriously depressed enough for Mary Beth to engage the use of a therapist and Alex, though visibly the more well-adjusted, is actually the one growing more distant with each passing day. So it goes for Mary Beth (who wouldn't trade it all for the world) until the day everything changes.
Quindlen is very good. Intuitive and substance-driven, she's tapped into the far less intact and far more amiss world of everyday lives, emotions, personalities and problems. It's the facile, gentle nature of her writing which most engages. Her stories are easy: easy to read, easy to follow, easy to identify with and, most importantly, easy to believe. As dramatic as the story gets (and it gets pretty intense), readers sincerely buy into the concepts and situations elicited. Everything's really a tradeoff in Quindlen's world; every life has its perks and pitfalls, peaks and valleys. People are often ill-equipped for failures and disappointments, are often marred by tragedy beyond repair. At the same time these same souls are realized as complete human beings, fitted with stronger attributes and capable of overcoming the many sad and troubling times though it's never guaranteed they will. (FIC QUINDLEN)

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