In the Unlikely Event

In the Unlikely Event

3.7 64
by Judy Blume

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In this brilliant new novel—her first for adults since Summer Sisters—Judy Blume takes us back to the 1950s and introduces us to the town of Elizabeth, New Jersey, where she herself grew up. Here she imagines and weaves together a vivid portrait of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed during


In this brilliant new novel—her first for adults since Summer Sisters—Judy Blume takes us back to the 1950s and introduces us to the town of Elizabeth, New Jersey, where she herself grew up. Here she imagines and weaves together a vivid portrait of three generations of families, friends, and strangers, whose lives are profoundly changed during one winter. At the center of an extraordinary cast of characters are fifteen-year-old Miri Ammerman and her spirited single mother, Rusty. Their warm and resonant stories are set against the backdrop of a real-life tragedy that struck the town when a series of airplanes fell from the sky, leaving the community reeling. Gripping, authentic, and unforgettable, In the Unlikely Event has all the hallmarks of this renowned author’s deft narrative magic.


Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Makes us feel the pure shock and wonder of living. . . . Judy Blume isn’t just revered, she’s revolutionary.” —The New York Times Book Review

“[A] page-turner, emotionally resonant and down-to-earth. . . . Reading In the Unlikely Event is like reconnecting with a long-lost friend.” —The New Yorker

“Gives us everything that Blume is known (and beloved) for. . . . This novel is her most ambitious to date, and she lives up to its reach with her characteristic frankness, compassion, and charm.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“Judy Blume is back—and on her game! . . . You won’t want to turn the last page.” —People

“A page-turner with cross-generational appeal. . . . Will appeal to loyal fans as well as new readers.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune

“A fascinating novel. . . . Blume, in clear and forthright storytelling, creates realistic characters searching for happiness. . . . Just as dramatic as the devastation and panic caused by the crashes are Blume's ruminations on the mysteries of the human heart. ” —Chicago Tribune

“Judy Blume is still here, opening our eyes to the daily astonishments of life all these years later.” —USA Today

“Quite simply, extraordinary. . . . Utterly brilliant.” —The Observer (London)

“Blume succeeds in capturing the condition of an entire community. . . . No one captures coming-of-age milestones and stomach butterflies like Blume, and those scenes are worth waiting for.” —The Boston Globe

“Judy Blume’s writing is simply a delight. . . . Blume is a master at presenting the complexities of life. This novel is entertaining, heartbreaking, and redeeming.” —The Missourian

“Heartwarming.” —New York Daily News

“Satisfying, heartfelt. . . Delivers on the warm nostalgia that we remember from Blume’s earlier books and will appeal to her admirers—of which I am absolutely one—who regard any new book by this trailblazing literary and cultural icon as a celebratory event.” —Melissa M. Firman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Blume creates characters who are real and sympathetic.” —St. Louis Post-Dispatch

“Excellent and satisfying. . . Has all the elements of Blume’s best books: the complex relationships between friends and family members, the straight talk and lack of shame about sex, and, most of all, the compassionate insight into the pleasures and pains of growing up.” —Chicago Reader

“Has [Blume’s] signature warm, personal touch.” —

“Vividly rendered. . .  Blume deftly demonstrates just how different the personal fallout from tragedy can turn out to be. . . . As Blume proves over and over again not just in In the Unlikely Event but in all of her fiction, life does go on in spite of hardship. We love. We lose. We fail. We may fall. But the lucky ones, we try our best to endure.” —The Oregonian

“Soars. . . . It’s Judy Blume and, therefore, it’s gold.” —Newark Star Ledger

“Judy Blume is revered. She is claimed, and cherished, and clutched close to the hearts of American adolescents and former adolescents, everywhere that books are read. . . . Blume’s great gift is [her] personal touch; her unflinching but reassuring voice—that of a no-nonsense big sister who gives it to you straight, then gives you a hug.” —Buffalo News

“Characteristically accessible, frequently charming, and always deeply human.” —Publishers Weekly

“Compelling. . . . Smoothly written. . . . A new Blume novel will always be big news.” —Booklist (starred review)

The New York Times Book Review - Caroline Leavitt
…Blume has threaded these lives together in an essential way and given every one of them importance…Devastating secrets are uncovered, moving love stories play out or fade to black. Blume, whose fiction for adults has the same emotional immediacy as her books for children, makes us feel the pure shock and wonder of living, the ways we get through catastrophe—and the ways we fail. But our connections might save us. "Terrible things can happen in this life but being in love changes everything," one character says. We are all passengers in this world, Blume suggests, fastening our seatbelts, hoping we reach our desired destinations and bracing for what comes next.
Publishers Weekly
The three fatal plane crashes that hit Elizabeth, N.J., during the winter of 1951–52 are the inspiration for Elizabeth-native Blume's latest adult novel (the first since 1998's Summer Sisters), in which young and old alike must learn to come to terms with technological disaster and social change. The novel opens in 1987, when Miri Ammerman's return to Elizabeth for a commemorative ceremony brings back memories of the year she turned 15. In flashback, readers are brought back to the 1950s—Kate Smith, Lilly Dache, J.D. Salinger, Korea—from a variety of perspectives: Miri; her single mom; her supportive uncle; her wise grandmother; Miri's best friend, Natalie, daughter of a workaholic dentist and his shopaholic wife; Christina, a Greek girl secretly dating an Irish boy; passengers on the ill-fated planes. Miri's uncle earns recognition for reporting on the crashes in the local newspaper, but when Miri writes about the reactions at school she lands in the principal's office. Disaster produces other unexpected developments: Miri's boyfriend saves lives, while Natalie hears dead people. Maintaining her knack for personal detail, Blume mixes Miri's familiar coming-of-age melodrama with an exploration of how disasters test character, alter relationships, and reveal undercurrents of a seemingly simple world. She evokes '50s music, ethnic neighborhoods, and Las Vegas in the early days, while posing the question, how do individuals, families, and communities, deal with disaster? Her answer may not be entirely new, but her novel is characteristically accessible, frequently charming, and always deeply human. 350,000-copy first printing. (June)
School Library Journal
In the winter of 1951–52, three separate airplanes crashed into Elizabeth, NJ, near Newark Airport. Blume was a young teen at the time, and she revisits the events of those months in her latest novel told in the third person from multiple points of view. The main character, 15-year-old Miri Ammerman, lives in Elizabeth with her single mother, Rusty. Miri's Uncle Henry is a small-town journalist who makes a name for himself writing about the crashes for the local paper. Miri's grandmother Irene keeps the family fed and befriends a man who was widowed in the first crash. These and other protagonists' viewpoints help to build a picture of life in New Jersey in the early 1950s. Although there are many voices, Blume skillfully weaves their stories together so that it is always clear who each character is and what their connections are to one another. Miri experiences first love (with a non-Jewish boy) and begins to learn the truth about her father and his family. Her best friend Natalie, whose family and life Miri has always envied, begins a downward spiral into anorexia and believes that she is hearing messages from a dancer named Ruby who died on the first plane. This is a wonderful picture of a community living their lives while responding to not just one catastrophe but three. VERDICT Fans of Blume will clamor for this, but so, too, will any teen who enjoys a well-written coming-of-age novel that strongly evokes a specific time and place.—Sarah Flowers, formerly of Santa Clara County (CA) Library
Kirkus Reviews
A beloved author returns with a novel built around a series of real-life plane crashes in her youth. Within 58 days in the winter of 1951-'52, three aircraft heading into or outbound from Newark Airport crashed in the neighboring town of Elizabeth, New Jersey, taking 116 lives. Blume (Summer Sisters, 1998, etc.), who was a teenager there at the time, has woven a story that mingles facts about the incidents and the victims—among them, Robert Patterson, secretary of war under Truman—with the imagined lives of several families of fictional characters. Though it's not always clear where truth ends and imagination begins, the 15-year-old protagonist, Miri Ammerman, is a classic Blume invention. Miri lives with her single mother, Rusty, her grandmother Irene, and her uncle Henry, a young journalist who makes his reputation reporting on the tragedies for the Elizabeth Daily Post. In addition to the crashes, one of which she witnesses firsthand, Miri faces drama with her mom, her best friend, the adviser of her school newspaper, and her first real boyfriend, an Irish kid who lives in an orphanage. Nostalgic details of life in the early '50s abound: from 17-inch Zeniths ("the biggest television Miri had ever seen") to movie-star haircuts ("She looked older, but nothing like Elizabeth Taylor") to popular literature—"Steve was reading that new book The Catcher in the Rye. Christina had no idea what the title meant. Some of the girls went on dates to Staten Island, where you could be legally served at 18....The Catcher in the Rye and Ginger Ale." The book begins and ends with a commemorative gathering in 1987, giving us a peek at the characters' lives 35 year later, complete with shoulder pads and The Prince of Tides. Though it doesn't feel much like an adult novel, this book will be welcomed by any Blume fan who can handle three real tragedies and a few four-letter words.

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
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Product dimensions:
5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.20(d)

Read an Excerpt

Miri was not happy when Rusty showed up at the Osners' party. And even less happy to see she was wearing her good black dress, her dress shoes and stockings with seams. Then there was the hair. Rita Hayworth hair. To her shoulders. Heads turned when Rusty came into the living room. She waved at Miri but Miri turned away. "What is my mother doing here?" she asked Natalie.

"My mother wants to introduce her to Cousin Tewky from Birmingham."

"Tewky? What kind of a name is Tewky?"

"Some family nickname. He's my mother's first cousin, from the banking side of the family. You know, Purvis Brothers Bank."

Miri didn't know.

"My mother's from the department store side."

Miri didn't know that, either. "You should have warned me," she told Natalie.

"How was I supposed to know your mother didn't tell you she was coming?"

Corinne greeted Rusty and led her straight to a man, a man who must have been Tewky Purvis, balding, not especially handsome, but not ugly, either, with a mustache. Well, half the men in the room had mustaches, including Dr. O. She couldn't hold that against him. They were talking now, her mother and Tewky Purvis, and laughing, maybe even flirting. Miri didn't like it. She didn't know how grown-ups judged each other, especially how women judged men. It never made sense to her. It's about character, Rusty once told her. Strength, goodness. A sense of humor doesn't hurt, either.

She didn't ask how men judged women because she already knew. It was obvious, and Rusty looked glamorous tonight. "That's not all of it," Rusty had once argued. "But you're right--looks are certainly a starting point. Chemistry, too." Miri understood chemistry now. Chemistry turned your legs to jelly and made your insides roll over.

If Mason hadn't had to work tonight Miri might not be at the Osners' party. She hoped she'd never have to choose between her best friend and the boy she loved. Since seventh grade, New Year's Eve had been for just the two of them, Natalie and Miri. She didn't think Natalie would have invited Mason. Maybe someday when Natalie was also in love, they'd invite dates to the Osners' party, but not now. Rusty must have thought that Miri would be out with Mason when she accepted Corinne's invitation. Now she'd have to deal with her daughter keeping an eye on her.

She decided to go to the party at the last minute when Irene urged her to get out and enjoy herself. Seeing the worry on Miri's face now, she began to regret her decision. Maybe it had been a mistake to keep the men in her life a secret. Not that there had been many. But she'd never brought a date home. Not one man in fifteen years. She hadn't done a thing to get Miri used to the idea, to the possibility. In all these years, there had been just two serious boyfriends. One of them had been married. She certainly wasn't going to introduce him to her family. She knew from the start he would never leave his wife and children. She knew she wasn't his first affair. Yet she kept seeing him. For five years she saw him every week. If you asked her about him today she wouldn't be able to explain it. Just that she'd been young and she'd enjoyed the attention, the thrill, the sex.

The second man was decent and available. He'd proposed after a few months, with a diamond as big as her thumbnail. For a minute she thought she could learn to love him, could be happy with his promise of a big house in the suburbs, a maid to clean and cook, summer camp for Miri. But when it came time to introduce him to the family she couldn't do it. They would see right through her. They would see the truth--she didn't love him, wasn't the least attracted to him and didn't want to marry him, not even for an easier life.

Sometimes she wondered about her first love, but not often. A girl gets in trouble, she marries the boy. They wind up hating each other, resenting each other and finally they get a divorce. By then it's taken its toll on both of them and their children. No, she never wanted that, which is why she'd refused to allow her mother to call the Monskys and force Mike to marry her. Maybe she would fall in love again. If and when that happened she would introduce him to Miri. But until then, what was the point?

Meet the Author

Judy Blume is one of America’s most beloved authors. She grew up in Elizabeth, New Jersey, and was a teenager in 1952 when the real events in this book took place. She has written books for all ages. Her twenty-eight previous titles include Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret; Forever; and Summer Sisters. Her books have sold more than eighty-five million copies in thirty-two languages. She is a champion of intellectual freedom, working with the National Coalition Against Censorship in support of writers, teachers, librarians, and students. In 2004, Blume was awarded the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She lives in Key West and New York City.

Brief Biography

New York's Upper East Side, Key West, and Martha's Vineyard
Date of Birth:
February 12, 1938
Place of Birth:
Elizabeth, New Jersey
B.S. in education, New York University, 1961

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In the Unlikely Event 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 64 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Jeeze! Big sisters, little sisters, boyfriends, uncles, aunts, uncle's girlfriends, grandmothers, neighbors, moms, mom's boyfriends, employees of friends fathers and on and on......Better keep a notebook handy to keep them straight! Oh, and then there is a little about an airplane crash here and there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I Hate that this book has an ending. I Love it. I have read every single book By Judy Blume several times over and this will be yet another one.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
"In the unlikely event...she hears the flight attendant saying in her head. Life is a series of unlikely events isn't it? Hers certainly is. One unlikely event after another, adding up to a rich, complicated whole. And who knows what's still to come?" p. 394 This is a story that has true incidents at its foundation: Three plane crashes in Elizabeth New Jersey in the 50s. The ripple effect with the children, the families, friends and strangers in the vicinty makes for compelling reading, in true Blume style, and for another great summer adult read by one of the most well known authors of YA and Adult books these days. Although it takes a while to read at close to 400 pages it draws you in and keeps your interest as the story unfolds and refolds upon itself. The book lives up to its pre-release hype. Enjoy.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Female character was whiny and weak. Story was boring, slow and predictable.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I was looking so forward to this book. Unfortunately I didn't keep me interested until the last 100 pages.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I honestly just couldn't finish this. Entirely too many characters and boring as can be. Wish I hadn't wasted money on it!
love2read123 More than 1 year ago
I, too, was sorry to reach the end.  I have been reading Judy Blume's novels since early adolescence (I am 50), and I was as captivated by this novel as any of her previous works.  I thought the multiple characters and perspectives was a device that worked extremely well, and the joy and sense of dread that Miri, the main character, experience, felt authentic and true.  Judy Blume has not lost her touch, and this is a satisfying, worthwhile novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I agree with so many comments referring to all of the characters. Difficult to keep them straight. Being a Judy Blume fan for years and years I have to say this book was a big disappointment. Could not get into any of the characters, it read more like a children or very young reader's book and not a good one. Boring and disconnected to the point of annoyance. I did manage to finish but regrets that I did. Waste of time and dollars. Amazing that it took 5 years for author to finish this book. Her readers should have received much more than she gave us. Again, where is the Judy Blume that we all waited for her next story. This was not it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having grown up in Elizabeth, NJ, I was very interested to see what elements of the neighborhood Judy would incorporate into the novel. I was not disappointed! I went sledding on Wyoming Avenue, I rode the #24 bus to Elmora, I attended Shelly School #21. But as entertaining as that all was, it was almost too much nostalgia. It got to the point that it became trite and contrived. The writing on a whole was not spectacular, but mediocre. I expected more of Judy Blume. There was a variety of sex in the book, which really could have been left out. It was beside the point, could have been accomplished with much less detail, and seemed to be included for sensationalism. Would I recommend the book? If you grew up in Elizabeth, especially during the 50's and 60's, most definitely. You will enjoy the place/store/school references. Would I recommend it to a young adult? Definitely not because of the sex, which is a shame because the air crash story line was based on fact and was interesting. Certainly a captivating topic, three air crashes within several weeks, interesting to see how she weaves the characters into the storyline and interactions with each other, and entertaining as a summer read. I'll give it a middle of the road 3 stars.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was advertised as an adult book. While the topics were adult topics the plot, aside from the plane crashes, was adolescent.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Ssssssssssseeeeeeeeeexxxxxxxxxxx 3:28
Anonymous 5 months ago
I love how this story was told in vignettes by each of the characters
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wow so good
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Worth a read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kissed my hands
KateUnger More than 1 year ago
Ultimately, I enjoyed this book, but it had way too many characters. The story centers around a series of plane crashes in Elizabeth, New Jersey in 1951 and 1952. I didn't realize until I read the author's note that Judy Blume grew up in Elizabeth, and she was in eight grade when the crashes occurred in real life. This book is historical fiction. The central character is Miri, a 15-year old, living with her mother, uncle, and grandmother in Elizabeth. Everyone in the town is impacted by the crashes. Uncle Henry is the town reporter, Miri and her mother witness the first crash, Miri's best friend communicates with one of the victims of the first crash, etc. A LOT of other people are showcased as well. This book alternates perspective every few pages. It's all in third person, thankfully, but the cast of characters is extremely large. I actually took notes in the first chapter and came up with a list of 13 people. Some were never mentioned again after that chapter. And many more were added as the book progressed. I think Blume was trying to make the reader feel attached to the characters who would die in the crashes to make it more personal, but it just bogged down the central story. I didn't really care about many of the characters, and I ended up anticipating more crashes, so the cast list would shrink, as horrible as that sounds. Later in the book I got into the story more. I really liked the story of Miri, who is experiencing her first romantic relationship and the end of a very close friendship. Blume's insight into the adolescent female mind definitely shines in this book. It reads like YA at times. I enjoyed the historical elements of this book and ultimately got into the story of Miri and her family, but there were just too many characters to make this a great book. It reminded me of The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. Good story in the end, but too much of a struggle to get there.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
LBC1974 More than 1 year ago
I adored this book. Once again, Judy Blume has delivered a great book. There are a lot of characters but somehow it all works and even seems necessary to have so many players. I enjoyed every minute of this book and hope Blume writes another adult novel in the near future.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Just like I was 12 years old again reading one of her books, I could not put this book down! This book reminded me why I feel in love with reading many years ago. Although my this was probably not the best book to read a week before a scheduled flight!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
In the Unlikely Event compelling, entertaining, if a bit juvenile In the winter of 1951-52 three commercial passenger planes crashed within the city limits of Elizabeth, New Jersey, the city being on the flight path into Newark Airport. There were over a hundred fatalities including some residents. In the novel, In the Unlikely Event, author Judy Blume, who was a young girl and a resident of the city during that period has taken the experience and crafted a fictional tale of growing up in the fifties with these disasters as a backdrop. This is a coming of age novel focusing on family and friendship with a host of characters including the heroine, fourteen year old Miri Ammerman, her single-parent mother Rusty, her maternal grandmother Irene, and her uncle Henry, a reporter. There’s also a host of Miri’s friends, their families and even a boyfriend. Blume somehow manages to keep it all straight by telling the story in multiple points of view and each time it changes using the person’s name as a heading for the section. The novel is well crafted, the characters are fully developed and the writing is simple and straightforward. In the Unlikely Event is compelling and entertaining if you like a story primarily told from a young girl’s point of view. This reader found the ending to be overly optimistic but was grateful all the same for the characters I came to grow fond of.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The title is supposed to be 'free ipad' not PINK ipad bro
PierresFamily More than 1 year ago
Judy Blumes latest book is the best I have read in 2015, and I voted as such, in a poll from BookBrowse. Blume does a masterful job of placing fictional characters into a uniqe historical events, which she lived through as a child - the 1951-52 three crashes ot three airplanes in a small town in New Jersey. She sets the scene with background info that is thorough but doesn’t get bogged down. I was able to find online pictures, radio recordings and investigation info on the three crashes, and that made the book even more intriguing for me. The book has spoiled me for other writing for awhile, but it was worth it. Blume is one of our most gifted writers, and I think that one day, she’ll be considered “classic."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It is a realy good bok