SHORT & SWEET REVIEW: IN THE UNLIKELY EVENT BY JUDY BLUME

Note, the format of my Short and Sweet reviews differs in that they simply comprise the book blurb and a short response (hence, the short and sweet). 

In The Unlikely Event

It’s interesting how often one book flows on to another, whether by theme, a place or a name. Plane crashes seem to be a theme this week, with Judy Blume’s In The Unlikely Event rounding out three books with that as the inspiration. This is the first book written for adults by Blume that I have read. Here’s the blurb:

“She held the baby close, feeling the warmth of his little body, kissing his soft cheek. He looked right into her eyes.

Outside the window, the wing broke away from the plane.

Then they were falling . . . falling diagonally out of the sky.”

When three planes crashed in Elizabeth, New Jersey within the space of three months in the early 1950s, Newark airport was closed for a year. Each of these disasters was devastating not only for those on board, but also for the close-knit community of people on the ground. In Elizabeth, the plane crashes open up new wounds and mysteries – they bring some families together and tear others apart. But somehow, life continues – and amid grief and loss, hope and love survive.

Inspired by real events, Judy Blume uses her imagination to interweave the stories of three generations of families, friends and strangers whose lives are forever changed in the aftermath. In The Unlikely Event is a captivating, deeply moving and unforgettable novel, written with the same warmth and authenticity that have won the hearts and minds of readers the world over for decades.

It’s sobering reading when you realise that this story was inspired by real events – that is, three planes did crash within three months in Elizabeth, New Jersey (click here for an article showing a picture of one of the crash sites). How frightening would that have been in real life, at a time when aviation was still establishing itself as a safe and reliable form of transport. Blume taps into this fear and wariness well through a variety of characters who are impacted directly and indirectly by the crashes, including Miri, a 15-year-old girl who later describes this year as the worst year of her life. For Miri, it’s primarily a coming-of-age story, as she falls in love for the first time, meets her father and starts to keep secrets from her family (like any other teenager eventually does). It’s a good read, that took me back to the Blume voice I remember from my teenage years, though it took me a while to really feel emotionally connected. What stands out for me more is Blume’s level of insight into her characters’ experience – her characterisation of Miri was especially strong.

Available from good bookstores (RRP $29.99). My copy was courtesy of Pan Macmillan Australia.