Judy Blume was in the eighth grade when, over the span of only a few months, three commercial flights crashed in and around her hometown of Elizabeth, N.J. One of the airliners went down just two blocks away from her junior high school.
Blume’s new novel for adults, In the Unlikely Event(*** out of four), fictionalizes the accident-struck town of Elizabeth she knew in the 1950s, tracing the lives of its residents as the town is rocked by tragedy after tragedy.
Blume’s novels have sold more than 85 million copies, and most of those are accounted by her plainspoken and frank classics for adolescents, including Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. Those readers won’t be disappointed here. But at the same time, In the Unlikely Event has a much larger canvas to play on than do Blume’s novels for younger readers; by spanning generations, her book allows for a deeper examination on what it means to seek individuality within the constraints of family and culture.
Though the viewpoints in the novel rotate among the cast, we return most often to 15-year-old Miri Ammerman. Even as she copes with the local crashes, she has to figure out her young adulthood, navigating her relationships with her beautiful single mother, her wise grandmother and her uncle — and the new acquaintance of Mason, a handsome orphan.