It’s only fair to warn the reader of the tragedy and heaviness that bursts from Every Last One like a train wreck. It is sudden and shocking, and will leave you crying in public.
Mary Beth Latham is the mother of a typical suburban family, navigating through her life with familiar, middle-age struggles: teenager angst, disconnect from her spouse, hints at a greater discontent. Yet she is completely intertwined with her family, even as they pull away from her, and she from them.
When Mary Beth’s family is violently destroyed by an unexpected act of violence, her life becomes unrecognizable; she becomes unrecognizable. Her previous discontent seems foolish in the face of such deep, profound grief. The rest of novel centers around Mary Beth’s attempt to cope with what happened – an intimate, heartbreaking look at loss and love.
Yet the beauty of this story – and what is perhaps one of Quindlen’s trademarks – is its ability to accurately mirror human emotions. Mary Beth attempts to heal, yet she knows she will never be the same person again; she knows she will never truly be ok. Her loss has changed her – ruined her – yet she has no choice but to mask her heartache and go on with her life… Like we all do.
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