I finished In the Unlikely Event
the day after I attended Judy Blume’s talk at the Bay Area Book Festival, which was over a week ago. I cannot help but think that how positively I feel about a book is correlated with how inspired, and thus rushed, I feel to sit down and reflect on it. I was hooked for 3/4 of this novel, and then it inexplicably went on and on and on, and within the finale, far more bombshells went off than I ever suspected. While most of the book progresses naturally if not slowly, its final pages are heavy with new information and drama, and by then I was a bit tired of Miri Ammerman and company.
Sitting down to Judy Blume, I felt the time tick backwards a few decades. The name dropping included R.L. Stine and Francine Pascal, and when Blume referred to an old interview, she said that it could be watched on AOL. She discussed one of the main ideas of the book; is an event like three planes crashing into the same city within two months due to sheer coincidence, or something else? How do average people interpret unlikely events that do indeed happen? Even the most rational of us try to connect the dots, to create some kind of meaning. In the book, Blume appears to credit coincidence, but during the talk, she said that after recently returning to the crash sites, she began to believe otherwise.
Before In the Unlikely Event
, my most recent encounter with Judy Blume was in Joanna Rakoff’s My Salinger Year
. In her memoir, Rakoff writes of working at Harold Ober Associates, a literary agency that represents the likes of J.D. Salinger and Judy Blume:
“As she crossed the threshold into my domain, something caught her eye and she retreated back into the corner, crouching down in front of the obscure bookcase where I’d found Judy Blume’s books. Oh no
, I thought, as a frown arranged itself on the woman’s face. No. No, that can’t be her
. She didn’t look at all the way I’d pictured Judy Blume. How had I pictured her? More plump and smiley? I wasn’t sure. Regardless, this had to be her” (p. 118).
We learn that Blume soon leaves that literacy agency, seemingly because its president does not believe her latest book will sell, a book for adults. And we know how that story ends. In the Unlikely Event
is Blume’s fourth novel for adults, though I will not be exploring its predecessors anytime soon. Instead, I hear another Miriam Toews
calling my name.