Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

I loved this book until I found myself horrified by the direction of the story. I should have been prepared but I didn't understand how prophetic the title was, or that I should be prepared for true tragedy. The shock I felt could easily be avoided if you read a detailed review. I am glad I didn't know what was coming but it made the book so much harder to digest. I didn't want horrible things to happen to the family at the center of the book. I came to love them and I was distressed by the eventual tragedy which comes at the middle of the book.

Quindlen creates such full characters. A family: father, mother, three teenagers ( a set of boy fraternal twins and a daughter). Generic. And yet the characters are humanized, unique; they are the bold lines of a generic coloring book with the color filled in and flying off the page. The daughter is magical Ruby, who recovered from an eating disorder and displays enormous confidence and is willing to be different from her peers. She is artsy and a gifted writer. Part of her confidence and uniqueness is surprising considering the fact that she is also the girl who once had an eating disorder. Yes overachievers often try to seek control through not eating. My own experiences led me to find the extreme self-confidence inconsistent with the underlying causes of anorexia. But I suppose this characterization also made me consider the fact that anorexia is no longer the illness of a certain type of person.

I can also see how Quindlen's characters could seem cliche: anorexic daughter, depressed son and golden boy who excels at sports. I think possibly with the exception of Alex (the golden boy athlete) the characters are more fully developed.

Maybe I just chose to believe the characters were realistic and fully developed considering the fact that after reading it became so easy to see flaws in the development of the characters. the overworked mother who can never seem content. The parents who gave up their dreams for stable jobs that would support a family. But then again these are cliches for a reason.

I think mostly my problem with this novel was the resolution. It's hard to accept that the characters would simply exhibit such a level-headed acceptance of their loss. Yes, there was numbness and fear and disbelief and agonizing and seeking of professional help. But in the end the passage to normalcy seems too easy. i also wanted more of an explanation of some of the characters actions.

That being said, I devoured this book quickly. I didn't expect where it was going. And when I discovered the direction of the story i found myself so affected by the emotions created by such a tragedy. Even now I can't fathom how one recovers from such an event. Quindlen's attempt to figure this out is quite an exercise in creativity.

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