Saturday, November 21, 2015

Unlikely Events

Judy Blume is best known for her young adult novels that addressed topics that had previously been taboo.  Premarital sex, menstruation, divorce...her stories were not from Ozzie and Harriet.  Her books were very popular and she has had quite a following.

In the late seventies she tried her hand at adult novels with a book called Wifey.  I read it and thought it was pretty good.  It would not, in my opinion, have made her famous and wealthy in the same way her children's and young adult books had, but it was a better than average read.

A few weeks back I saw a review for a new adult book by Judy Blume called, In the Unlikely Event. I don't typically like to read reviews because they sometimes give things away.  I do skim reviews trying to get a sense if the reviewer is panning the book and to get the gist.  I don't like science fiction stories much or those with a lot of gratuitous killing.  So, I skim the reviews.  I saw when I skimmed this one that Blume had actually written at least one other adult novel--in addition to the just published one-- which had been positively received.

I was in the library and saw In the Unlikely Event on the "new books" shelf and took it out.  I just completed it this afternoon. After I was done I went on line and read, not skimmed, several reviews that appeared on Amazon and elsewhere. For the most part people liked the book, and some liked it a lot.  I am not among those.

There was not a whole lot there and I thought the writing was not particularly engaging. The story is about a number of people who lived in New Jersey in 1952 and witnessed three plane crashes within a few months.  While the book is a novel, the three crashes did in fact occur near Newark airport in 1951-52.

There are a slew of characters and outside of the main four or five, it was tough to keep them apart.  There is a teenager, her mother, her mother's mother, the grandmother's beau, an absentee father, a dentist, the dentist's wife, lover, assistants, daughters, and son.   And there are many others.  I'd say that the side stories were irrelevant except that would suggest there was something central in the book to which side stories could be relevant.  The book is about people who happened to live near the crashes. While a couple of these people were directly affected by the crashes, the others were going through the throes of life that all of us go through or might go through.  Blume tries to make the case that their lives were all affected by the trauma.  I'm sure there was a community that developed because all had witnessed this strange coincidence. But most of their issues were not created because of the crashes.  The absentee father's brief return; a divorce; an elopement; a teenage break up--all part of this book---had not a whole lot to do with the crash, just that the people who were involved in these side stories also happened to live where the crashes took place.

I can't recommend the book on any front.  It was interesting to me to find out about the crashes because I had no knowledge of these events, but beside that--as I understand younguns now say--"meh."

Finally, while the book is billed as an adult novel, there are times when it reads like a young adult story both in terms of what the teenager who is the main character experiences, and how the book is written.

Blume has a well deserved reputation as an excellent young adult author.  I think the positive reaction to this novel is a carry-over based on her reputation.

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