In 1987, Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, to attend a commemoration of the worst year of her life.
Thirty-five years earlier, when Miri was fifteen, and in love for the first time, a succession of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving a community reeling. Against this backdrop of actual events that Blume experienced in the early 1950s, when airline travel was new and exciting and everyone dreamed of going somewhere, she paints a vivid portrait of a particular time and place—Nat King Cole singing “Unforgettable,” Elizabeth Taylor haircuts, young (and not-so-young) love, explosive friendships, A-bomb hysteria, rumors of Communist threat. And a young journalist who makes his name reporting tragedy. Through it all, one generation reminds another that life goes on.
In the Unlikely Event is vintage Judy Blume, with all the hallmarks of Judy Blume’s unparalleled storytelling, and full of memorable characters who cope with loss, remember the good times and, finally, wonder at the joy that keeps them going.
Thanks to Penguin Random House for the ARC!
Judy Blume is such a beloved author that I’m almost reluctant to write this review. Let me just get it over with: I didn’t like this book.
There, I said it.
It wasn’t the anticipation that made the book such a letdown–it was the style and way the plot unfolded. Many other reviews will note the large cast of characters and the fact that each chapter is written about one character at at a time. For me, this didn’t work. (I’ve recently read other books constructed that way and once I got into the flow, enjoyed everything just fine. None of these characters actually grabbed me.)
The writing style wasn’t as Blume-esque as I recall, and the plot seemed to zig and zag, even though it was fairly linear. I read on and on, hoping I would get to that sweet spot where everything clicks and it becomes unputdownable.
It just never happened for me, and I grew annoyed. Yes, the work is epic. Yes, she winds the characters’ lives around and eventually it all makes sense. Yes, the hopes and dreams of everyone looms large as the plot unwinds, and the maturation of the characters, especially Miri Ammerman, provides a backdrop to keep the average reader turning the pages. I could say it’s like going to Disney World in the rain; the idea of it should be magical, but the weather just doesn’t cooperate.
One thing that was agreeable: the exact perfection in which Blume describes the 50’s. Little details like products, clothing, attitudes, home decor—this is done wonderfully and provided the only bright spots for me. Sad when you spend time reading a book just to pick out the background details.
Ms Blume will sell a lot of copies of IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT based on her status as a literature goddess. I’m still going to worship at her altar, but this book won’t have a place there.