Bittersweet and Beautiful..., April 5, 2010 5 STARS
Not since One True Thing: A Novel, an earlier novel turned into a movie, have I really raved about this author's books! But now I've found one I can do my book stalker act with. This is a wonderful novel about the power and resilience of the human spirit to continue trying to live when all the reasons to do so are gone.
Several reviewers have mentioned the back of the book synopsis as being a spoiler; I think it is necessary to give a potential reader some idea of what is to come and to properly set up the anticipation of what crisis or tragic event might be revealed. I didn't guess what was going to happen because I don't try to second guess the author -- I just go with the flow of the story and enjoy the revelations as they come. That said, the visceral punch of that climactic violent event was stunning in the way Quindlen wrote it.
The synopsis of the plot and the explanation of the characters in the book have already been described by other reviewers. I would say that the story is mainly about a woman's coming to terms with the limits of what she can be and do as mother and as wife. Can anyone really ever fully protect or save another human being? Is home a safe haven where family can feel secure? And do you ever really know the ones you love or those whom you see and interact with every day?
After a horrible tragedy, Mary Beth is forced to confront her own uncertain future. The story is less about what happened than it is about what WILL happen now. Without further spoilers it's difficult to get across to a potential reader how much beauty is in this story. The author writes well and the emotions experienced by the friends and family are real and ring true in every sense of the word. It was easy to relate to those thoughts and actions of the characters during the course of the narrative.
It may very well be true, as Mary Beth remarks to Dr. Vagelos, that "every fear you ever have, every one - thunder or spiders or roller coasters -- they're all fear of dying. Every last one."
Highly recommend but if you have suffered a recent loss, this might be overwhelmingly sad and a difficult read for you.