Every Last One by Anna Quindlen

Every Last One by Anna QuindlenI know what the world wants: It wants me to heal. But to heal I would have to forget. – Mary Beth Latham

By all appearances the Latham family is a happy, successful, average American family. The father, Glen, has a thriving ophthalmology practice. Ruby, the oldest of three siblings, is a popular girl entering her senior year of high school.

Twins Alex and Max are freshmen; Alex a star at sports, Max more inclined to artistic endeavors. And overseeing the whole brood is Mary Beth, who somehow manages to keep both the family and a successful landscaping business on track. It’s snapshot of picture-perfect suburbia.

Except things aren’t perfect. Ruby announces, seemingly out of nowhere, that she is breaking up with her longtime boyfriend, a young man who has become like a member of the family. Even more concerning, Max slowly starts to withdraw. Concerned he is slipping into depression, Mary Beth focuses all her attention on helping him through his difficulties.

So complete is her focus on Max that Mary Beth never senses the storm gathering around the Latham family, and she’s completely blindsided by a devastating act of violence that forever changes their lives.

Exactly what happens I’ll leave for you to discover as it is rather shocking when it erupts in the Lathams’ otherwise rather placid lives, and I highly advise you try hard to avoid that particular spoiler if you intend to read the book. The remainder of the story deals with the way Mary Beth copes with the tragedy that has ripped the Latham family apart, and author Anna Quindlen does so masterfully.

The story is told from Mary Beth’s first-person perspective, and as such the reader experiences events along with her as they occur. By putting the reader on the same footing as Mary Beth, with no special knowledge or insight about the crucial event before it occurs and in her head as she struggles to make sense of it all afterwards, Quindlen creates an incredible sense of intimacy and connectedness between the reader and Mary Beth. Yet, despite tackling head-on the incredibly heavy topic of how a person navigates through crippling grief, Every Last One is remarkably subtle in its handling of the tragedy and its aftermath, never descending into melodrama or movie of the week platitudes.

Every Last One is an incredibly well written exploration of how an ordinary family copes with the extraordinary, and how internal and external expectations of how we are “supposed” to respond to grief both help and hinder that process. I have to admit this was a bit outside my normal wheelhouse of reading, but I’m glad I did.

Every Last One is available from Random House (978-0812976885).

Anna Quindlen is the author of five previous bestselling novels (Rise and Shine, Blessings, Object Lessons, One True Thing, and Black and Blue), and seven nonfiction books (A Short Guide to a Happy Life, Good Dog. Stay., Being Perfect, Loud & Clear, Living Out Loud, Thinking Out Loud, and How Reading Changed My Life). Her New York Times column “Public and Private” won the Pulitzer Prize in 1992. From 2000-2009, She wrote the “Last Word” column for Newsweek. To learn more about Anna, visit her website.

Be sure to check out all of Anna’s TLC Book Tours TOUR STOPS:

Monday, March 21st: Book Club Classics!
Tuesday, March 22nd: Lit and Life
Wednesday, March 23rd: Chaotic Compendiums
Thursday, March 24th: She is Too Fond of Books
Friday, March 25th: Joyfully Retired
Monday, March 28th: Peeking Between the Pages
Tuesday, March 29th: Musings of an All Purpose Monkey
Wednesday, March 30th: Caribousmom
Monday, April 4th: Luxury Reading
Wednesday, April 6th: Book Hooked Blog
Thursday, April 7th: Acting Balanced
Monday, April 11th: Lori’s Reading Corner
Tuesday, April 12th: Rundpinne


  • […] Tuesday, March 29th:  Musings of an All Purpose Monkey […]

  • Lisa Munley

    March 31, 2011 - 10:02 AM

    Great review! Sounds like this one packs an emotional punch. I rather like it when a book does that to me. Thank you so much for being on the tour! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

  • Sabrina Ogden

    March 29, 2011 - 10:46 AM

    Sounds like an incredible and emotional read. Wonderful review.

    • Elizabeth A. White

      March 29, 2011 - 1:27 PM

      It is, despite not being over-the-top at all.