ARMCHAIR BOOK CLUB: Blume at her very best with In the Unlikely Event

In the winter of 1952, three planes crashed in a span of three months over Elizabeth, a suburban city near Newark Airport.

Heather Allen reviews Judy Blume's new book - In the Unlikely Event.

In the winter of 1952, three planes crashed in a span of three months over Elizabeth, a suburban city near Newark Airport.

Almost 120 city dwellers and airline passengers died. The crashes not only incinerated parts of Elizabeth, but also scarred a great number of its residents, who either knew someone who had died, had their homes destroyed or witnessed the crashes.

At the time, author Judy Blume was a teenager living in Elizabeth — then nicknamed Plane Crash City. Even though she lived through a harrowing piece of American aviation history, it never occurred to the author — famed young adult and adult novels such as Are you there God? It’s me Margaret, Superfudge and Summer Sisters — to write about the crashes.

It wasn’t until six years ago, while attending a reading for a memoir written about Elizabeth in 1952, that the idea for the adult novel In the Unlikely Event was born.

Blume’s new book is set in Elizabeth during those fateful three months, and follows a string of fictional characters who are connected to the crashes in various intertwining ways. Blume sifted through facts from newspaper clippings, aviation records and her own memories to fictionalize a chilling story.

Although it was more than 50 years ago, Blume says her memories of that time remain clear. She can recall where she was when hearing about the first crash on the radio; and she remembers the endless school yard speculation about the cause of the crashes: Students suspected Communists, UFOs or sabotage (at the time terrorism wasn’t even in their vocabulary).

The community did succeed in getting Newark Airport closed for a time, and then to have flights routed over water instead of land whenever possible.

They didn’t succeed in shielding their children from the trauma. The adults in Blume’s book believed that if you didn’t talk to children about what happened, their grief would disappear more quickly. The aftermath of the crashes was prolonged and far-reaching — especially for the young.

Blume has charmed millions of readers around the world with her uncanny ability to remember, to understand and to write about the world from a young person’s point of view.

In the Unlikely Event is no different. Blume excels at creating believable, vulnerable and utterly real people, including many younger characters. Set against the back drop of such a catastrophe, Blume is at her very best.

Heather Allen is an avid book reader and reviewer living in Penticton.


Just Posted

Tagger causes $30,000 damage

Penticton looking for help finding person responsible for graffiti

NHL scouts have eyes on Penticton Vees players

Two Penticton Vees are ranked on the NHL Central Scouting Midterm Rankings

Penticton fire department going by the playbook

Fire department training exceeds official standards

New development in missing plane near Revelstoke

The family of Ashley Bourgeault believe they have found a new clue

Main Street revite continues

Penticton borrowing to cover cost of street upgrade

Taking kindness to a new level

Students make thoughtfulness a year-round initiative

Cougar window shops at Banff grocery store

An RCMP officer spots a cougar outside an Alberta grocery store

Police fear fewer fentanyl imports don’t signal the end of the overdose crisis

RCMP say it’s just as likely that criminal are getting more clever

UPDATE: Two people die in ATV accident south of Campbell River

Third person survived attempt to cross a creek

Lawyers slam ‘de facto expulsion’ of student guilty of sexual interference

Calgary student guilty of sexual assault of a minor allowed to finish semester

B.C. NDP set to restructure union bargaining

School trustees to regain control over employer group

$130K could get you on a dive to the Titanic

Hot summer ticket: $130K could get you on a dive to the Titanic off Newfoundland

UK’s Princess Eugenie, daughter of Prince Andrew, engaged

Princess Eugenie, the daughter of Prince Andrew and his ex-wife Sarah Ferguson, will marry Jack Brooksbank in Autumn 2018

German nurse charged with 97 more murders

Niels Hoegel, serving a life sentence for two murders, has been indicted in nearly 100 more killings.

Most Read