On Every Last One by Anna Quindlen – East Hampton, NY
When I was at Barnard College in the 1970s, Anna Quindlen was a year ahead of me. She was famous in her own way even then. I admired her focus and early recognition that she wanted to be a writer. I love her work, particularly her New York Times column “Life in the 30’s” and her wonderful novels Object Lessons, Black and Blue, One True Thing and Rise and Shine. Her voice represents my entire generation of women and her words speak for all of us.
Every Last One does not disappoint. It is classic Quindlen. The narration sneaks up on you, moving in on an ocean of placid rhythm, hiding the riptide underneath. The subject matter of this book is brutal, the murder of the narrator’s husband and two of her three children, reminding me of the author’s own Black and Blue (about wife beating) and Alice Sebold’s The Lovely Bones (about pedophilia and murder). These books deal with horrible things that do happen, although we live in fear of them ever happening to us.
My only criticism of this book is that the main action was completely predictable. It was obvious to me what was going to happen, who was going to do it and why. However, the narrator’s sense of guilt and karmic responsibility for a transgression of her own came as a complete surprise, adding depth and complexity to an otherwise gruesome yet expected outcome that was revealed entirely too soon. A good read and beautifully written in true Quindlen style.