I am a huge Judy Blume fan. I enjoyed her books as a child, loved her young-adult books, and now especially love her adult fiction. Her 1999 novel, Summer Sisters, is one of my all-time favorite books and I have read it three times.
When I heard that her latest novel had been released in paperback, I went straight to the bookstore to get my copy. In the Unlikely Event took Bloom five years to write, and at age 79, she thinks this will be her last work (although I really hope not).
The novel takes place in the 50s, in Judy Bloom's actual hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey. While the characters are all fictitious, the story is set against the backdrop of true events. From December 1951 to February 1952, three planes crashed in the town of Elizabeth. It's really hard to believe, but it happened. (Elizabeth is located very close to Newark Airport. Two of the flights were leaving Newark and the other was destined for Newark.)
While the plane crashes are important, the book is really about a brilliantly connected cast of characters and how they navigate the trauma of these disasters. Bloom writes from the point of view of each character in short chapter bursts, with her distinctive frankness and economy of language. She is not a gentle or flowery writer, but for lack of a better phrase, 'tells it like it is'. I love this about her because it makes her characters so authentic and accessible.
If you are like me, you might find yourself flipping back to earlier parts of the book trying to keep characters straight because are so many, but that is what makes this book so interesting. Bloom ambitiously tackles the story of many, making for a complex and engaging story. She writes characters that are richly human, simultaneously admirable and flawed, and above all, relatable.
I really enjoyed this book and couldn't put it down, even when I was on a plane to and from Colorado! A quick word of advice though, if you are a nervous flyer, this may not be the book for you.
Thanks for reading!