The last time I came across Judy Blume I was about 14 years old, binge reading every book I could get my hands on during a summer of playdates and ice-pops.
Now at the ripe old age of 25, I was compelled to relive my childhood and picked up her new adult novel!
Here is a quick Goodreads summary to get you up to speed on “In The Unlikely Event”:
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.
This novel was based on a true story, much of which Blume experienced first hand. Blume spent 5 months researching the events before she began writing because at the time she was 14 so many news articles and details were kept from her. Here are some of the similarities between the novel and real-life:
– There really were three plane crashes within 58 days in Elizabeth, NJ
– Blume lived in Elizabeth during this time
– There was a 22 year-old dancer who died in one of the plane crashes
– Blume’s father was a dentist in Elizabeth, just like Dr. O
– Her father was actually the one to identify victims by their dental records
– There’s a real Henry in Blume’s life, it’s her husband
There are a lot of characters to keep track of, even Judy Blume admits that in her BuzzFeed interview. But I’ll give it to her, they were very well developed, likable, and relatable. And one of the great things about the constantly switching narrator was that you got to see how this tragedy affected people differently, young and old.
My favorite character was Henry. He was that awesome uncle everyone wishes they had. Encouraging Miri, supporting the family, and being the man of the house when the Ammerman’s had no one else to turn to.
My least favorite character: Mason. Seriously, what did he bring to the table? I will cut Miri some slack though, it was her first love and he was a sly liar. I’m not sure if I liked him any more at the end of the novel, but I was happy Miri decided she was better off without him.
This book hits on tragedy and also forgiveness. The ending made me smile, because even through all the devastating experiences (from broken hearts to suicide), they all managed to find love and happiness in some form or another.
Life does go on, and that was the purpose of this novel.
If you read this for a book club, here are some great discussion questions I stumbled upon! I nominated this book in my book club for the July read, but The Circle won. Looks like I better start reading that one now :)
All in all, it wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be, but I did enjoy it! And it was a very nice change from the recent thrillers I’ve been reading. Although this was considered an adult novel, it was still a bit juvenile. Just barely transitioning from a YA to an adult novel if you ask me. But if you’re looking for a nice beach read with lovable characters (or you just love Judy Blume), this book is for you!
Rating: 4 out of 5
Are you a Judy Blume fan? What did you think of the novel?