The word ‘haunting’ is overused within book reviews, but in the case of Every Last One by Anna Quindlen, I really can’t think of a more apt word to describe the book. But as a mother, it’s the sort of ‘haunting’ that stays with you and gets under your skin – you don’t want to read on, but at the same time you can’t put the book down. I certainly went to check on my daughter in bed a few more times than I usually do!
Every Last One focuses on one family, the Lathams, who on the surface of it have it all. The central character, Mary Beth, is gripped by the challenges of motherhood, and as the life of one of her sons, Max, begins to unravel, her attempts to rescue him lead to a consequence of events that result in one life shattering event for everyone involved.
Without wanting to give a spoiler, I certainly didn’t see the climatic event coming, and it had quite a powerful emotive effect on me. It’s not often that I resent an author for captivating me in such a way, but in this case I did, as the events are truly shocking.
Every Last One is an examination of the complexities of any family, and in particular a testament to the depth of a mother’s love and determination. It’s a terrifying portrait of how all attempts by a mother to protect her children can ultimately be futile. It slams you with the realisation that no one ever truly knows what is around the corner.
This is the first novel that I have read by New Yorker Anna Quindlen, and I was captivated by her portrayal of female characters in particular within the book. She’s a modern day Thomas Hardy – the characters of Mary Beth and her daughter Ruby were wonderfully created as strong and individual women.
Every Last One isn’t for the feint hearted, and every mother reading it is likely to shed a tear or two – but be warned that those feelings will stay with you for a while afterwards!
Anna Quindlen says: “Every Last One was not an easy book to write; inside its pages, and my imagination, bad things happen to good people. But I hope you can live in it as completely as I did, and to learn as much about motherhood, marriage, and the connections among us all that make us human.”
My mark: 7/10. What would you give it?