Friday, April 7, 2017

Review of "In the Unlikely Event" by Judy Blume

Though this book is publicized as a Judy Blume book for adults it feels more like a YA book to me. The story is set in 1950s Elizabeth, New Jersey, and follows a number of people who are profoundly affected by three local plane crashes that occur within three months, killing passengers as well as people on the ground.

The book is told from the rotating points of view of several characters but centers around 15-year-old Miri Ammerman, a Jewish girl who lives in a loving, nurturing home with her mom Rusty, grandmother Irene, and uncle Henry. Miri knows nothing about her father, whom Rusty refuses to discuss. Uncle Henry is a journalist whose career is kicked into high gear by the articles he writes about the plane crashes – a sad reminder that some people’s bad luck is other people’s good luck.

Miri spends a lot of time at the home of best friend Natalie Osner. Natalie, who aspires to be a dancer, comes from a wealthy home with a dentist dad and a southern belle mom. Miri is envious that Natalie has two parents and daydreams about ways she and Natalie could be ‘sisters’. After the first plane crash Natalie becomes obsessed with Ruby, a young dancer who was killed, and acts out in disturbing ways.

The crashes deeply affect other Elizabeth residents as well: a middle-age-man becomes a widower and looks to grandma Irene for comfort; Natalie Osner’s brother loses the girl he’s just fallen for, and his life plans go awry; the Osner’s housekeeper loses her son and is devastated; and so on. Trying to make sense of the plane crashes, people come up with wild speculations about what caused them, including sabotage, space aliens, and communists.

In the midst of the unrest Miri’s dad enters the picture, which upsets the Ammerman family. Miri also starts dating Mason McKittrick, a sensitive teen who lives in an orphan home. Mason has a disturbing family history and a secret that he hopes to hide. There’s an obstacle to Miri’s romance though – Mason isn’t Jewish, which is a problem for her family. Another young couple has a similar difficulty. Christina, a high school senior who works in the dental office of Dr. Osner, is in love with Mason’s brother Jack McKittrick – though her parents expect her to marry a Greek boy.

As the story unfolds the adolescents and adults in the story seem to realize that life can be fleeting and their subsequent thoughts and actions lead to hook-ups, break-ups, friendships formed, friendships broken, changes within families, and so on. The characters in the story are compelling and believable and - for the most part - sympathetic and likable.

The book is well-written and held my interest and I’d recommend it.

Rating: 3.5 stars

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