Book Club: In the Unlikely Event

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It’s pretty hard to find someone that hasn’t heard of Judy Blume.  From Superfudge to Blubber, from Freckle Juice to Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, and from the racy (at the time) Forever … to Summer Sisters, I have so many memories of Judy Blume’s amazing books.  And let us not forget Are You There God?, It’s Me Margaret that gave us the never to be forgotten jingle, “we must, we must, we must increase our bust!”

I had my kids read all of her children’s books.  Well, ok, I spared the boys Are You There God?, It’s Me Margaret.  There’s a sentimentality to them for me, and I’m guessing for a lot of others as well.  So naturally when Mom of the Year‘s Meredith, my book club partner in crime, and I discovered Ms. Blume, who hadn’t written a new adult novel in over 15 years, was releasing a new book, we … how should I describe it?  Well, we flipped out.

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And what a fascinating story she tells in In the Unlikely Event!  Based on real life events that occurred in Judy’s then hometown while she was a teenager, the novel sends us back to a different time and place.  Three plane crashes in the span of three months in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1951/1952.  It’s true.  I looked it up.  Not so much because I didn’t believe Blume, but because I couldn’t believe I had never heard of it before.  Killing people both in the airplanes and on the ground, the town of Elizabeth was quite literally a bullseye.  It’s shocking.  It’s unbelievable.  And it’s real.

But while this is the backdrop for the story, it is the characters that will mesmerize you.  I thoroughly enjoyed Blume’s telling of the story through different characters’ eyes.  I love that through all the tragedy of the crashes, she still was able to drop some literary bombs throughout and continue to surprise us.  At times, I’ll be honest, I was a little overwhelmed by just how many characters Blume introduced but, in the end, I felt like they each played a pivotal role.

The main character is Miri, who is the foundation of the novel, carrying us in and around the many characters while helping us dissect and understand them.  Her voice was, to me, the most interesting.  A teenage girl, not only living in a town with all of this chaos, but dealing with regular teenage girl issues – first love being the biggest.  Her uncle, Henry, a newspaper reporter covering all of the crashes, helps provide the more adult and factual perspective of not only the crashes themselves, but the investigations as well.

Blume’s writing is, of course, to be admired.  Even if there were some flaws in the telling of the story, her writing makes up for any issues one would have.  She provides such a great voice for her characters and intermingles humor throughout – even during a most horrific time.

So now we’re curious …

What did you think?  Were you as shocked as I about the basis of the story?

Did you find there to be too many characters?  Did you feel they all contributed to the story or were there some that could have been left out?

How about Miri?  Did you enjoy her as a character?

Do you enjoy Blume’s writing?  This book is different from her other works.  Is that a good or a bad thing?

Let us know!  We always want to hear from you!  And, as usual, we will be giving away a free copy of our next book club pick!

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Speaking of which, our next pick is … The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler!

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Meredith has finished this one and I’m just starting!  We are anxious to hear your thoughts!  Here’s the descriptions via Amazon:

Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone in a house that is slowly crumbling toward the Long Island Sound. His parents are long dead. His mother, a circus mermaid who made her living by holding her breath, drowned in the very water his house overlooks. His younger sister, Enola, ran off six years ago and now reads tarot cards for a traveling carnival.

One June day, an old book arrives on Simon’s doorstep, sent by an antiquarian bookseller who purchased it on speculation. Fragile and water damaged, the book is a log from the owner of a traveling carnival in the 1700s, who reports strange and magical things, including the drowning death of a circus mermaid. Since then, generations of “mermaids” in Simon’s family have drowned–always on July 24, which is only weeks away.

As his friend Alice looks on with alarm, Simon becomes increasingly worried about his sister. Could there be a curse on Simon’s family? What does it have to do with the book, and can he get to the heart of the mystery in time to save Enola?

In the tradition of Sara Gruen’s Water for Elephants, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Elizabeth Kostova’s The Historian, The Book of Speculation–with two-color illustrations by the author–is Erika Swyler’s moving debut novel about the power of books, family, and magic.

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So there you have it!  Join us next month for our review and discussion about The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler!  And don’t forget to leave a comment so you can be entered to win a copy of The Book of Speculation! As long as you are 18 or older and live in the continental U.S., you are eligible.  The winner will be picked September 11!

Happy Reading!!

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