Review: Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (With Audio & book club notes)

17 Jun

Every Last OneMy rating: 4 of 5 stars

It took a while for me to get into this one, but I’m not sure if that was the book or that was me. I was somewhat impatient with the time spent building the characters and their life, even though I normally appreciate this in a book.

Summary via Goodreads:

Mary Beth Latham has built her life around her family, around caring for her three teenage children and preserving the rituals of their daily life. When one of her sons becomes depressed, Mary Beth focuses on him, only to be blindsided by a shocking act of violence. What happens afterward is a testament to the power of a woman’s love and determination, and to the invisible lines of hope and healing that connect one human being to another. Ultimately, as rendered in Anna Quindlen’s mesmerizing prose, Every Last One is a novel about facing every last one of the things we fear the most, about finding ways to navigate a road we never intended to travel.

The strength of the first half of the book is the portrait of a family I could relate to.  I don’t know that family, but I can imagine them living on a street nearby (although of course my daughter and her friends aren’t going to get involved with anything like Ruby and her friends did– drinking and teen sex eating disorders and so on.  La La La.  My fingers are in my ears, I can’t hear you!).

I think the problem (such as it is) was that I knew Something was Going to Happen, just from reading the description on the back of the book. That’s part of the experience here– trying to guess what is going to happen and when. Which hints in the text are going to be built on? Or is it going to come completely out of the blue?

Once It happens, the book just grabbed me, and I couldn’t stop listening. All in all, I liked the characters, particularly Mary Beth. This isn’t to say she was perfect– far from it. She was human, with strengths and flaws. The kids were also fairly well fleshed out. In the family, only her husband never really came alive for me.

Particularly interesting were the snapshots of Mary Beth’s friends, as they would come into focus over the course of the book. One would be highlighted at a key moment, a different one at another time.  Some are faithful to her throughout the story, some come and go, and we see small (and not so small) glimpses into their lives.

All in all, this is a book about characters, and these are worth spending the time with.


Book Club notes

We had a great time discussing Every Last One.  We all liked the book, although everyone found it extremely intense.  We all thought the characters were very well done, and discussed the strengths and weaknesses.  We talked about their relationships with each other, and the ways we did and didn’t relate to the characters.  We talked about whether key events could have been avoided, and what aspects of the past contributed to the path that was taken.

I’d recommend this for book clubs that enjoy character driven discussions.

Audio Notes

Sound Bytes @ Devourer of Books

For more audiobook reviews, check out Sound Bytes

Narrator: Hope Davis was seamless in this book.  She was the voice of Mary Beth, and I didn’t stop to consider her as an independent entity.

Production:  No issues, no extras.

Audio or Print?  Audio worked fine for me overall.  There were two reasons (not major ones) that push me a little toward thinking print might have been even better.

First (and irrelevant for many), the print version has a Reader’s Guide that might have been useful for Book Club.

Second, in the first half, the book sometimes felt a bit slow, and might have felt less so, since I can read print faster.  In the second half, I wanted to go faster at times, because I was so wrapped up in what was happening!

Both of these are minor.

I really did enjoy getting to know Mary Beth, and I wouldn’t hesitate to listen to another one of Anna Quidlen’s books.


Posted by on June 17, 2011 in Book Club, books, M, reviews


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3 responses to “Review: Every Last One by Anna Quindlen (With Audio & book club notes)

  1. Beth(bookaholicmom)

    June 18, 2011 at 11:42 am

    I read this book and loved it! It does just kind of smack you upside the head when the “Something” happened! I never saw it coming. I knew something bad was going to happen but never in my wildest imagination did I see “that” coming. I love books like this that can make me feel so many emotions! I’d read Anna Quindlin again in a heartbeat!

  2. DevourerofBooks

    June 24, 2011 at 6:51 am

    I haven’t read any Anna Quindlen yet, maybe I should rectify with EVERY LAST ONE…


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