A bit of women’s fiction for this week’s BotW pick – and I’ve gone with Judy Blume’s adult novel In the Unlikely Event. This had been sitting on my shelf for a while (it was one of the books that got lent to my mum during the great renovation of 2017) and it took me a while to get to it – and to read it – because my copy was hardback and we all know that I don’t take them on the commute with me.
In the Unlikely Event tells the story of the worst year of Mimi Ammerman’s life. At the start of the book we meet her as she heads back to her home town of Elizabeth for the 35 anniversary of three plane crashes that hit her home town within a couple of months. That was the year that she was 15 and as well as all the usual teenage angst, love affairs, school and family problems, Mimi and her friends had to deal with death falling from the sky towards them. The reader follows the community through the tumultuous period that changed all of their lives forever.
I read a lot of Judy Blume’s children’s books when I was in the right age bracket for them. Between her and Paual Danziger my early views of what life was life in the US were formed. From Scoliosis, to party line telephones, to periods and a lot in between, so much of what I knew about young women and teenage girls in America came from what I read in her books. And, although she’s writing for an adult audience in this, I could feel echos of that coming through. Mimi’s world isn’t that far different to Margaret’s but as well as seeing the world through her eyes, we also see it through the eyes of some of the adults around her and some of the older teenagers. And it’s engrossing. I particularly liked the newspaper articles written by Mimi’s uncle Henry. They really set the scene for what’s happening and present the official point of view that Mimi doesn’t really see.
It is a book about three plane crashes happening though – but although I had to take some breaks from reading it, it wasn’t as bad as some of the other books about tragedies that I’ve read. Definitely cope-able with. And lots of you out there probably won’t even have to take breaks – I’m just a bit of a wuss. I hadn’t really realised when I started reading this that the three plane crashes in Elizabeth actually happened. Or if I had, I’d forgotten. And I found out midway through wen I went googling because it seemed almost too implausible. At university I did a History and Literature module, and my final essay question was “Literature has to be plausible, history only has to be true. Discuss”. If I was writing that essay now, this book would definitely be getting a mention.
Anyway, this was a really interesting read and I know I’ll be lending it on to other people. I can’t remember exactly where I got my copy from – it was either the magic bookshelf at work or from one of the work booksales – but because I’ve had it for so long it’s been out in paperback for a couple of years nearly. You should be able to get hold of it from any good sided bookshop or all the usual suspects – as well as on Kindle or Kobo. As is traditional, I suggest buying from the Big Green Bookshop – they’ll post it out to you and have been running a really lovely “Buy a Stranger a Book” twitter campaign on Wednesdays that will gladden your heart.