I was given Every Last One by a friend and coworker at my last internship on my last day. She said it was her favorite book by this author, one of her favorite books in general and I had to read it. Although it didn't look like the kind of book I would pick up on my own, I always trust friend recommendations (or at least give them a chance) so I took it happily and decided to read it next.
Every Last One tells the story of Mary Beth Latham, a suburban mother in a typical family situation. She's married to Gene, an eye doctor, with a somewhat successful practice. She has three children: Ruby, the oldest and a free spirit who loves writing and is enjoying her senior year of high school, and two twin 14 year old boys, Alex, the sporty one that is a stereotypical popular high school boy and Max, a bit depressed and introverted who has trouble making friends. Mary Beth herself has a popular landscaping business that is doing quite well.
The first half of this book explores all these characters through Mary Beth's eyes. We see everyone's hopes and dreams, the trials of every day life. It's a very well written slice of every day life and you really get a feel for the characters and connect with them.
Halfway through the book, however, things take a dramatic turn. With just two pages, the entire plot line has changed and things are completely different.
One thing I really enjoyed about this change is that I did not see it coming at all. Also, since Mary Beth is in a bit of a haze while everything goes on around her, the writing is very vague, so that the reader pieces together what has happened around the same time that Mary Beth does. I was reading this section on a train with a friend and kept popping out of the book going, "Oh my God! I think this happened!" and then two minutes later, "No wait! I think it's worse than that!" It was a very effective method and I'm very impressed.
The rest of the book asks questions that I generally had no answer to and that was very interesting. I like books that push me like that, to imagine situations that could happen to me that I would never even consider in normal life. These sections were a bit hard to read but in a good, challenging way. It never felt stale or trite but always real and emotional.
I'm very impressed with Quindlen. She has a great style and by halfing her book like she does, she makes it completely compelling. You spend half the book getting to know the characters so that when the change comes, you care so much. I read the end of the book on a train, tearing up and trying not to cry. It's a very powerful book, something that won't leave you after you've read it.
I would recommend this book to anyone. It is powerful and compelling, asking questions and making statements that everyone should think about, even if it hurts to. I really enjoyed it and completely understand why my friend gave it to me.