In the Unlikely Event
Ladies. This is it. Our very first book club post! I'm writing this as I ride the brown line train in Chicago, and I swear my fellow commuters can see how visibly thrilled I am. Maybe I should wipe this creepy grin off my face so I don't freak everyone out too much.
Full disclosure: In the Unlikely Event was quite a journey for me. Some days I flipped through the pages quickly and without hesitation. Others I was dragging and considering quitting. But alas, I am committed to you and our club. So I carried on. I finished all 402 pages.
As it always goes, in the end I was glad I didn't give up. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Most of my time reading this book was spent trying to remember who all the characters were. I was constantly having to flip back a few chapters to remember who Christina, Robo, Steve, etc. were. This is no easy feat when you're reading an e-book, and to be honest, this detail was very distracting for me. My dear friend and fellow member of my Chicago book club told me she actually kept a journal next to her to take notes while reading so she could reference it when she needed reminders about characters. That's a bit heavy for a pretty casual book club. I do, however, appreciate this idea of seeing tragic events through the eyes of many different characters. The plane crashes in this novel affected every single person in different yet equally devastating ways, and I was glad to be able to see that.
In honor of her highness Ms. Judy Blume's layout of In the Unlikely Event, I want to share some of my feelings towards the characters.
Miri: I always read her name as "Mimi," as this is the name of my hilarious co-editor here at Lady Hustle. And truth be told, the two aren't so different. I found Miri to be one of the most level-headed people in the book. I'm not sure if this is because of the time period, but Miri often made decisions that I'm absolutely positive I was not mature enough to make at age 15. Let's call a spade a spade here: teenage girls are usually pretty selfish. Miri was not. Her actions were protective of others, and in most cases, selfless. Of course she had a few slip-ups (hellooooo adultery with Mason), but I actually found myself admiring her strong will and compassion.
Rusty: Boy, this woman was infuriating. For about the first quarter of the book, I loved her. She was hard working, cared for her daughter deeply, and was a positive female role model for successfully overcoming adversity. Until she wasn't anymore. I truly understand the need for females to be sexually and emotionally satisfied (believe me), but Rusty's affair was like a shot to the heart. To me, the decision to begin a relationship with Natalie's father proved that Rusty honestly had no regard for anyone's life but her own. And as the affair developed, I became even more disappointed with Blume's decision to allow it to be widely accepted by everyone involved. It seemed the reader was forced to see the whole situation through rose colored glasses. We saw a lifetime of love together, and skipped most of the turmoil that comes with breaking up a family.
Mason: Mason is one of the most frustrating characters I've ever had the pleasure of reading. I reread his first dance with Miri three times, just to make sure I didn't miss any details because that introduction was as romantic as it was utterly bizarre. Miri and Mason were so sweet together. It's always exciting to read about first loves because it brings me back to the boys I adored at that age. The thing I liked most about Mason was his back story: heartbreaking and tragic, but I was enthralled. I could have read an entire novel detailing his history with his parents, and was dissatisfied with the amount of information given. A drunk father and a runaway mother does not a short story make. As Mason's affair with Polina became evident, I was shocked but not surprised. An abandoned teenage boy would look for love anywhere he could find it.
Natalie: Natalie was my main issue with In the Unlikely Event. As quickly her plot thickened, it dissipated. After the initial crash, when Natalie took on Ruby's personality and was suddenly semi-psychic, my heart instantly started fluttering in hopes of a fantastical change of pace. Unfortunately this was not the case. In my many discussions pertaining to this book, I was always left with one remaining question. What is up with Natalie? Her issues, which were very obviously mental heath related, seemed never to be the at the forefront of the novel. There would be a brief mention, a visit to the hospital, and it would be over. I was usually put off by this fact, as I actually found her storyline to be the most interesting. At the end of the book, however, I realized that this was a purposeful decision made by Blume. In the '50s, mental health was not a concern. Those problems were swept under the rug and ignored completely.
Clearly the amount of characters in this novel was almost excessive, and explaining each one would leave me writing all day. I had my favorites (Daisy, Uncle Henry, and Irene) and my least favorites (Polina and Dr. Osner), but I did enjoy the ways in which they were all connected. Finding out bits and pieces of their lives and how they intertwined with one another allowed In the Unlikely Event to almost feel like a mystery novel, instead of a tragedy. I learned so much from these dozens of characters about how to hurt, how to heal, and how to care for others. I spent days pondering whether there were other forces at work in that small town where the three planes crashed. It seems like too great of a coincidence to happen on its own. Although I must say: I'm glad I didn't know it was based on a true story when I was reading it on an airplane.
So what did you Lady Hustlers think? We want to hear! Use #LadyHustlerReadingClub to share your thoughts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. We're so excited to hear your reactions to the characters living in Elizabeth, NJ.
As an added bonus to our Reading Club, I found that my favorite pop culture podcast covered the book as well! You can listen here:
Our next reading club selection is Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. Gilbert is the author of Eat, Pray, Love, and her new work is more of an inspirational read for creatives or anyone hoping to get more in touch with that side of themselves. If you are able, I would suggest listening to the audiobook, read by the author. Her speaking voice is enchanting. We'll see you on November 20th for our next Lady Hustle Reading Club! Thank you so much for reading along!