In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
|In The Unlikely Event by Judy Blume|
|Category: Women's Fiction|
|Reviewer: Zoe Morris|
|Summary: A series of plane crashes spark something deep inside Miri and the other residents of this small New Jersey town. This is a phenomenal read and a welcomed new release from a favourite author.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 400||Date: June 2015|
|External links: Author's website|
How many planes have to crash, before people take notice? How often can an unlikely event occur before you have to stop calling it that? How horrible do things have to get before the adults are willing to talk to the children about their fears, their theories, their understanding of it all, rather than just glossing over the details?
It's December 1951 in New Jersey. Miri Ammerman is a pretty average teenager living with her mom, grandmother and uncle. That's a typical Blume character, from my experience. It's often the underdog, not the cleverest or richest kid, not the one with the perfect, stereotypical family, who gets centre stage, but I bet if you asked Miri she wouldn't feel like an underdog. She would tell you, I'm sure, that life is pretty awesome with a supportive family and good friends. Who cares if she's the only kid without a dad around? Or one without an unfinished basement (always such a bizarre status symbol in Blume's books from this era)? No, life is pretty fine all things considered but it's about to change. With aviation becoming more mainstream, and air travel gradually more accessible, a small airport called Newark is about to make the headlines as not one but several planes headed to or from there crash with horrific consequences. For Miri and the other residents of Elizabeth, life is never going to be the same again.
I start with Miri because the book starts with her, but one of the fascinating things about this novel is how many people's viewpoints are included. Every few pages we change narrator and in total there are dozens, from Miri and her family to her friends, their parents, even her dentist's receptionist. This is an ensemble production rather than the tale of the select few, and there's something incredibly moving about seeing a new character's name over the next paragraph and knowing that, most likely, they are being introduced just to be disposed of, a final flight of fancy before their final flight. Captains, air hostesses, regular passengers, all manage a last word in this way.
This book is outstanding, weaving together an inspired-by-a-true-story plot of real aviation disasters at Newark with all the hallmarks of a compelling, human interest story: love and divorce, family and friendships, young people finding their feet and going against the rules of the time, sadness when some things don't happen and the scariness when others do. Though set almost entirely in the 50s, with just a brief jaunt to the 80s at the end, I wouldn't class this as any sort of historical fiction. Instead, it's a beautifully captured eye into an earlier time, with contemporary details that make you feel as if you're right in the moment. I've always though 50s America would have been a wonderful era to live in, and this book has done nothing to dispel that view.
There are few new releases I've been as excited for this year as the new Judy Blume aka this book. I have to tell you, I was far from disappointed. It is just perfect, and I actually had to slow my reading towards the end to prolong the pleasure because I couldn't stand to see the story conclude. The final section is a sort of epilogue, and if you've ever wasted hours flicking through those where are they now? compilations online you'll love it, because that's what it tells you: what became of Miri, Henry, Christina, Jack, Mason and everyone else. It was incredibly touching and I shed a tear for what was and what might have been.
I love the publishers so much for sending us this book to review. I savoured every word and cannot recommend it enough, whether you're a long standing Blume fan or new to her work (and if you are, what a treat, as she has a handful of other books for grown ups you get to discover too, as well as her more well known teen works). This story had everything I wanted in a book, drama, mystery, love and a subtle education through all the historical facts from the era. For those who love a good aviation mystery, After The Crash by Michel Bussi is excellent, an absolute must read.
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