Apr 30, 2011

EVERY LAST ONE by Anna Quindlen

taken from the NEW YORK TIMES, by MAGGIE SCARF 

If it’s true that traits like novelty-­seeking and risk-aversion are genetic in origin, then Mary Beth Latham’s biological makeup appears to be tilted toward safety and security. Mary Beth, the narrator of Anna Quindlen’s engrossing new novel, “Every Last One,” values stability and sameness, finding quiet contentment in her long, amiable marriage to an ophthalmologist and in her flourishing career as a landscaper. But her most intense feelings and greatest concerns are centered on her three teenage children: lovely Ruby, nearing her last year of high school, and the twins, Max and Alex, who will be freshmen next year.

The Lathams’ busy, welcoming household, a study in domestic tranquility, is a magnet for friends of all ages. But there are curious ripples beneath this happy surface. Does the fact that Ruby has teetered on the edge of anorexia have mostly to do with normal growing pains or is there something darker, more troublesome to blame? And what about Ruby’s increasing wish to free herself from a cloying romance with her childhood playmate and high school sweetheart, who seems to be a constant presence in the Latham household? As for the twins, they’re a study in yin and yang. Alex is outgoing, comfortable in his own skin, on his way to making the high school soccer team; Max (called Max the Mute by his classmates) is clumsy and rarely speaks.

It seems unlikely that violence could erupt in the peaceful, countrified New England town where the Lathams live. Yet early in the novel one of Mary Beth’s large landscaping jobs (“six tiers of shrubs, a small copse of flowering plum and pear, a long hedge of weigela”) is vandalized, the plantings uprooted and carried off overnight. “I don’t mean to sound hysterical, but I am really freaked out by this,” she tells the policeman who arrives to inspect the damage.      read more...

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