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Literature & Fiction Review – In the Unlikely Event

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume

 

Review by Brenna B. (demiducky25)

 

I have a confession to make:  I don’t think I ever read a book by Judy Blume when I was an adolescent.  I am an anomaly in my generation, a generation that learned some of the facts of life by reading Judy Blume growing up.  Yet somehow I missed out.  So when I saw In the Unlikely Event advertised on a “must reads for the summer” list online, I was more attracted by the cover image than who the author was.

Although the story revolves around many characters, the main character is a teenager named Miri Ammerman and starts in 1951.  Technically the story starts (very briefly) and ends in 1987 but majority of the book takes place in 1951 and 1952.  Miri lives in Elizabeth, NJ in a two family house with her mother, Rusty, upstairs and her beloved Uncle Henry and grandmother, Irene, living downstairs.  Miri lives a relatively normal life.  She baby-sits, has two best friends, and knows that she is loved by her family.  The only abnormality in her life is that she doesn’t know who her father is since her mother was never married and she refuses to talk about how Miri came to be.  Miri only knows bits and pieces of her origin based on overheard conversations over the years.  Yet this mystery isn’t what unravels Miri’s life.  Miri’s life changes forever after a series of plane crashes over the course of 58 days happen in Elizabeth.

Blume tells this story by separating each chapter across several different characters.  Chapter 1 alone starts describing the experiences of ten different characters across eight separations (I’d say point of view, but I associate that with first person narration rather than third person, and this story is told in the third person).  Having to keep all of these characters straight can be a challenge, sometimes I felt like I needed a cheat-sheet to reference.  Some of the characters have their stories told throughout the book like Miri and others close to her, and some characters only appear once or twice.  But Blume masterfully weaves together each of the characters’ stories and shows how their lives manage to overlap in some way due to these plane crashes.  I found this book difficult to put down, and read it over the course of about 24 hours, even though it is nearly 400 pages long.  In part, I think I also read the book quickly so I wouldn’t forget which character was which from chapter to chapter.

Although Miri and the other characters are fictional, the three commercial plane crashes in Elizabeth, NJ in the early 1950s really happened.  I live in New Jersey and grew up less than an hour from Elizabeth, yet I had never heard about these events.  Granted, these were before my time, but I would have thought that I would have at least heard of something as tragic as three commercial passenger planes crashing in a town not far from where I live.  In an odd turn of events, I was going to take this book on vacation with me earlier this summer, but decided against it due to the cover and title (I figured it wasn’t the best thing to bring on a plane).  I started reading it when I came home, and the first plane that crashed was coming from Buffalo to Newark, the same trip I had just taken to get home from my trip (technically the flight in the book had two stops between Buffalo and Newark, but still, it was weird to read that and really made me glad I didn’t bring it on my trip).

I’m not sure how to classify the genre of this book.  Do the 1950s count as historical fiction or is that too contemporary (stories set in WWII are classified as historical fiction and this book takes place only a few years after WWII)?  I guess I could best classify this as a coming of age or self-discovery story since Miri and many of the other characters, including the adult characters, experience something so big that the paths their lives were on ended up getting altered forever.

My rating- 4 out of 5 stars

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