As well as being a novel that brings one into American life in the 1950’s and the tragic events of the three airplane crashes in Elizabeth, New Jersey, Blume spins her magic in this novel and tells the story of the coming of age of the teenage characters. The crashing of the planes also symbolizes the taking off of the rose colored glasses of the teenage characters to discover that their world is not all it seems with parental affairs, divorce, and first love gone wrong.
In the Unlikely Event is set primary in 1951 to 1952. Miri lives in a three-generational home with her mother Rusty, Grandmother Irene, and Uncle Henry. She wonders who her father was, but her mother won’t tell her. Her best friend is Natalie who lives a luxurious life as daughter of Doctor Osner, the dentist. Miri also meets the mysterious Mason at Natalie’s house, the friend of Natalie’s brother and discovers first love. After the first plane falls everyone’s world starts to change. As the planes keep falling, fear falls over the town. Is it a conspiracy? Who will be next to die as a plan falls from the sky? On the home front, will Miri find her father? Will Mason be her one true love?
The story is told through a variety of characters in different sections. Sometimes the characters only told one section. I found this hard to focus at first as there were so many characters. I got used to it and enjoyed the many points of view as I kept reading the novel. Although I did start to get nervous when new characters got introduced and realized they could be potential victims for the next crash.
I enjoyed the story. I loved how the real history was woven throughout the coming of age tale. I loved the detail of the live in the 1950’s. I was devastated as I got to know characters and their lives came to an abrupt end due to these freak crashes. This novel was the February FLICKS Book and Movie Club pick (aka Rogue Book Club). None of us sadly had finished the book on time, but what we had finished prompted good discussion. I loved Judy Blume’s novels when I was younger, but this was the first “adult” book I read by her. She is a truly wonderful novelist.
My favorite quotes:
I love this exchange between Mom, Grandma, and Daughter:
“For god’s sake,” Rusty said to Irene later. “She’s not getting married. She’s in ninth grade.”
Be careful, “Irene warned Miri. “All boys want the same thing.”
This poignant scene brought tears to my eyes:
“He visited the cemetery every day to talk to Estelle, to apologize for the things he’d done, to tell her she’d been his one and only love. If I could do it over. .. he’d cry. Please, Stellie, give me another chance to prove how much I love you. But Estelle never responded. He stood alone as the winter wind whipped his hat off his head, hoping for a sign – a falling leaf, a dove flying by. He’d have settled for a pigeon. But there was nothing. This is why he cried.”
This made me chuckle:
“Then they married each other and lived in single family houses with big backyards, had chubby babies and drank themselves to death. Miri knew the part about drinking themselves to death wasn’t necessarily true. She was just trying it out to make their lives seem less perfect.”
This was a disturbing scene from history that seems all too relevant today:
“(Senator Joseph) McCarthy in his typical wild swinging fashion, with no regard for facts but with a hold on is audience that is frightening, called Sun publisher Hank Greenspun an ‘ex-convict’ and an admitted Communist, publisher of the Las Vegas ‘Daily Worker.’”
A great overall summary of the novel:
“Life is a series of unlikely events, isn’t it? Hers certainly was. One unlikely event after another, adding up to a rich, complicated whole. And who knows what’s still to come?”
Overall, In the Unlikely Event was a unique and riveting look at a true historical event and the ripple effects it had on the community.
Have you read any Judy Blume novels? If so, which one is your favorite?
Book Source: The Kewaunee Public Library – Thanks!