Mary Beth Latham, the protagonist of Anna Quindlen’s new
novel, EVERY LAST ONE, is self-aware enough to realize how lucky
she is. Her husband, Glen, is a doctor, and her landscaping
business is successful, although the realities of some of her
Hispanic workers’ hard lives sometimes pinch her conscience.
Her troubles with her three teenaged children --- Ruby, defiant and
formerly anorexic; and Max, the awkward and depressed twin of jock
Alex --- are made more manageable by access to good therapists.
Mary Beth doesn’t spend too much time (although, like most of
us moms, she spends a little!) wondering how much of their issues
are her fault.
Her long-term marriage is stable, and if it’s not as
exciting as she sometimes wishes, she wisely realizes that romance
ebbs and flows with time. “Neither of us seems to want to do
it much anymore, but when we do it’s fine. I do things
I’ve been doing for years. He does, too. They still work.
They just seem a little beside the point, like reading a book for
the sixth time.”
This matter-of-fact, knowing narrative continues, establishing a
link, perhaps, with the many female book buyers who share Mary
Beth’s concerns. We can feel both her frustration with
Ruby’s moodiness and her pride in Ruby’s ambition and
writing talent. She worries that lonely, awkward Max suffers in
comparison to his successful athletic brother, Alex. Like many
mothers, she often feels that her attempts to help her children
backfire. Yet, as she narrates the prosaic ins and outs of their
lives, the reader senses that a harrowing event is coming, maybe
even craves it. And come it does, just about halfway through the
Overnight, on New Year’s Eve, Mary Beth’s
comfortable upper-middle-class life is turned upside down by a
shocking act of violence, and the meat of this book pertains to how
she copes and eventually begins to heal. Mary