Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Every Last One

I just finished Anna Quindlen’s Every Last One. As promised, my next book was by an author I’d never read before. Even though Quindlen’s written plenty of well-known novels, I’ve never picked one up. Somehow I must’ve put Every Last One on my Amazon wish list, so I had it on my shelf to read.

I can’t really summarize the book too much without giving everything away. But, the story focuses on Mary Beth and her family of five: her, her husband and three teenage children. The first half of the book builds the family. We learn about Alex’s athleticism, Ruby’s individualism and Max’s loner-ism. From the beginning of the book, Mary Beth looks at her life from afar. She knows she should be thankful for all she has, yet it can also feel like something is missing. Every day is the same – get up, take care of the kids, worry about the kids, kiss the husband, work, make dinner… lather, rinse repeat. Then halfway through the book, tragedy strikes and everything unravels.

I think the book was good. The writing was good and Quindlen can paint a picture and create a cast of characters with the best of them. However, because of the subject matter, the book also haunted me and made me very sad at some points. Now, one could say this obviously means the book was good, since it made me feel so strongly. Which is probably true. But it also made it very hard to read, too.

There’s been conversations on the blogosphere and Twitter (I know both Jennie and Jen have mentioned this recently) that one of the things that changes when you become a parent is that it’s nearly impossible and completely heart-wrenching to watch or read anything that has to do with a child struggling, being hurt, dying, etc. It can be as minor as a baby hitting his head to a story about a cancer patient giving her Make a Wish to someone else…as a parent you just die a little inside. (There’s a trailer for Paranormal Activity 2 out right now that shows a baby in a crib…I have to close my eyes.) Maybe that’s why the struggles of this family in the book affected me so much? I guess I won’t ever know since I can’t go back in time and read it 15 months ago, childless. But, it does show me that I’ll have to be a bit more careful picking my books. Again, while I thought the book was good, I’m just not sure the heartbreak I felt is really worth it, you know?

What do you think? Do you read books that you know will make you sad? Are there different kinds of sadness that are easier to deal with than others? What books have haunted you?


manda said...

I can't read horror or really tense books because they stress me out. Movies are similar. I just don't like to be scared. I do avoid sad books (if I know they are going to be sad) when I'm feeling blah. I'll spend more time with magazines than books to fight the blahs.

willikat said...

I kind of avoid sad movies and I hate when one is a bait-and-switch and has a horrible sad part but was billed as a comedy, etc. But I read a lot of sad books....not sure why. Most of the "sad" books are nonfiction, about true crime or Darfur or Katrina, memoirs, that kind of thing--but usually there are ways to make those situations better or about someone who made the most of a terrible circumstance. But I avoid anything about cancer and anything about older people struggling with illness, esp. if it's fiction. Too close to home, I guess. And I don't think it's "entertainment."