Why a booktrail?
From the author of Are you there God, it’s me Margaret, Judy Blume takes us to New Jersey and a story for adults about how life goes on despite everything.
Story in a nutshell
1987, Elizabeth, New Jersey
Miri Ammerman returns to her hometown to mark the anniversary of the worst year of her life. Aged fifteen, she remembers the carefree time of her first time in love. But this was the 1950s when plane travel was new and exciting, when three planes fell from the sky within three months of each other. This was when her life changed as did everyone else’s in that community.
Judy Blume writes a haunting story of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, whose lives were changed that day. Some people brought closer together and others fell apart. But that day has never been forgotten.
Place and setting
Amazingly, the premise of three plane crashes within a short space of time actually happened in Elizabeth ,New Jersey, the hometown of the author. Judy writes on her blog that it was a scary time and there was fear and panic in many people as they tried to work out what was going on.
So soon after the war, could it be a link to terrorism? Aliens? These and more conspiracy theories are the premise of In the Unlikely Event. How do people cope and move on after such an event. And mark its anniversary?
Back in the fifties, plane travel was unknown and exciting, something most people only dreamed of. So when three planes go down in a short space of time, the effects are harrowing.
Miri is Blume’s fictional alter ego (she’s the same age as the author was at the time of the accidents), and she is the one at the heart and centre of the story. As the journalist on the case says –
“I’m talking to anyone who has a story to tell, and so far, that’s pretty much everyone.”
What follows is a struggle to survive and cope with life now that the world has changed. There are some scary moments when the planes hit – the first plane narrowly misses a building where a group of 100 children are gathered; the second skims the roof of a high school, shortly after the girls leave for the day; and the final plane actually crashes only yards from a children’s home –
a “muddy, bloodstained junkyard”.
Accounts of the real plane crashes can be found here –
A Judy Blume book is always an event. Ah my childhood and even adult life has been marked quite happily by the Blume books. So to read this was a real treat.
I couldn’t believe that this was a true story and that it is essentially Judy’s own story of an event which took place when she was a child herself.
Now aged 77, she revisits these painful and confusing memories and constructs a novel that not only explores them but shows how such memories can haunt and linger for years. How one event is viewed and remembered by a community is quite fascinating.
I felt as if I was really getting to know the author during a painful time in her life and it felt like a privilege of sorts. This was the woman who would bring so much joy to readers later on, going back to tell us one of her own life stories.
She completely captures the sense and time of the 50s. Lots of little, intricate details which paint a vivid picture of those years; the lifestyle, habits, food, things people said and did. The dawn of air travel…
Judy, you’ve done it again. All her trademarks are there and more. Quite a unique novel as it’s written with such a personal flavour as well as the Blume artistic flair, warmth and humanity.
Haunting and poignant in equal measure.