In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life. Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.
Kathryn - 4 Star
I found this novel initially tough to get into (which is torture for me to write as I’ve been a Judy Blume fan since I was 8!) but I am bound to write an honest impression of my thoughts! There are lot of characters and they didn’t become clearly established for me for a good hundred pages. That being said the premise of the historical sequence of events being laid out in the book persuaded me to push through my confusion. Of course, I’m very glad I did.
My most immediate connection was with Miri. Her voice was so honest and of the right age, an age Blume has explored before of course. Her teenage thought process was sometimes child-like and sometimes very mature- I found her fascinating to read through.
There were a host of other evocative characters and while most were supporting roles to the main person for me (Miri) I did grow really fond of Miri’s Uncle Henry and was quite attached to Miri’s boyfriend Mason. I wanted to know so much more about Mason as well as Daisy who worked with Dr.O. While I was initially taken aback by the numbers of voices there is no doubt that each one came alive in Blume’s story telling. I just wish each one of these people had their own books so we could follow them through!
The historical aspect of In The Unlikely Event- the three plane crashes in Elisabeth, NJ over 58 days-was completely new to me. Not something I recall ever hearing about but it is certainly sure to have been the source of nightmares for many a child an adult of that area for years and years to come. The horror and fear to come repeatedly during such a short time frame would have felt like a personal attack on a small town.
The book is well worth reading, a long-time Blume fan or not, as the inter-weaving stories come together to form a realistic portrait of the voices of the town at that time.
Thank you to Random House Canada for our review copy. All opinions are our own.
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