Reviewed by Poppy Johnson
Mary Beth Latham, the narrator of Every Last One, is fortunate to have a loving husband, Glen, and three high school aged children: Ruby and twins Max and Alex. The story sails along without a hitch until Mary Beth’s landscaping business experiences a theft, and Ruby’s then boyfriend refuses to accept the news of their breakup. By a generosity which is later regretted, Mary Beth allows the ex-boyfriend to move into their home. This proves to be the catalyst for a series of unfortunate events followed by a heinous crime, which the reader will not be able to justify on any level of the imagination.
Since the book jacket does not give away the story line, this review won’t either. Suffice it to say, at the moment of experiencing or personally witnessing extreme violence, most of us will immediately think back to the red flags or prior warnings which were present. If these warnings are heeded, our lives can take a different and less devastating path. That is, if we are open to understanding that sometimes there are signs of events to come.
Anna Quindlen allows the main characters to manage their pain and grief appropriately, but she gratefully goes one step further, by letting the reader in to the characters’ heads as they clear away the pain and make space for life again. Mary Beth offers a guide for us all – a guide for more than living for the present, or “smelling the coffee.” She reminds us how one event can change a life completely and utterly devastate a family unit. Afterwards, all of the small events in life add up to a powerful healing tool, allowing us to do more than just “get by.” Every Last One is a lesson in starting to live today, once we appreciate what we might not have tomorrow.
Check out Anna Quindlen’s website to learn more
After a decade of working in several NYC law departments and teaching, Poppy decided she enjoyed writing full-time. She currently works as a freelance writing consultant, and lives with her husband and sons on the East Coast.
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