Currently Reading: In the Unlikely Event

In the Unlikely Event takes place in Judy Blume’s hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, where in the early 1950s three planes crashed into the city within two months, killing scores of people. I have read far enough to take in two of those deadly crashes, and I cringe to think that there is another one remaining. Heartbreak and fear take over the city, but Blume beautifully intertwines the lives of those affected, and tells a sweeping, detailed story of middle America in the 1950s.
 
The sheer number of characters is breathtaking. Tucked into the pages of my book is a piece of paper on which I continuously scribble down newly introduced characters, drawing lines to indicate relationships and writing things like “cousins,” “housekeeper,” and “dating” in parentheses. One may begin to suspect an almost insistence on squeezing as many names into as few pages as possible. Though bewildering, it reflects the blur of people in the everyday of our own lives, and also demonstrates the far-reaching impact of tragedy; countless people in countless ways.
 
I am moving through the book quickly, a reflection of its narrative ease, and also of how much I am thoroughly enjoying myself. And that makes me pause. Books like this force my prejudice to surface – for which I blame the lingering effects of AP English – that reading is supposed to be challenging and intensive. It is a wonderful reminder that a good book does not necessarily mean a difficult book, and that there is value in taking pleasure in stellar storytelling. I will be attending A Very Special Evening with the Remarkable Judy Blume on Saturday as part of the Bay Area Book Festival, and with the drama of 1950s Elizabeth swirling in my mind, I am eager to hear from its famous raconteuse.

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5 Comments

  1. Your description of what you are doing to remember all the characters in the book is what the author should have done at the beginning of the book. Few authors do this; most should.

  2. I am used to thinking of Judy Blume in the YA genre and I wonder how her writing style translates to adult fiction. How does her voice change? Or stay true to the Judy Blume of books like “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret”

  3. I’m also attending a Judy Blume event here in CT next week–I purposely have NOT even begun the book yet, because I love the way the author makes it dance live for the audience(plus I have 2 others I need to review for my blog first). I am hoping you’ve enjoyed it as much as I am sure I will–I mean, I grew up with Judy Blume’s books, as did millions of other girls…

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