In The Unlikely Event is by the author, Judy Blume. Yes, that Judy Blume that wrote, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Freckle Juice. But this time, Blume wrote a book that is for adults.
The year is 1952 and the place is Elizabeth, New Jersey. The reader is introduced to several members of the community throughout the book. Sometimes, it could be hard for me to remember which character was which; I would have to read a couple of paragraphs to remember. From what I have read in online book reviews, I am not the only person that has had this difficulty. There were times while I was reading the book that I wished that Blume had not included so many different characters. However, by the end of the book, the character’s stories did come together and it did make sense. Still, I wish she would have cut out a few of them.
Nevertheless, I do not want to deter you from reading this book! It is a wonderful story otherwise I would not write about it. Our main character is fifteen year-old Miri. She lives with her single mother, Rusty. They live in house that has been split into two apartments. Miri’s grandmother, Irene lives on the first floor while Rusty and Miri live on the second floor. Miri also has an Uncle Henry that acts like a father toward her. Miri does not know who her father is and when she asks her family about it, they will not tell her anything and she has given up on learning anything about him. Miri’s closest friend is Natalie and she spends a lot of time at Natalie’s house so we get to know that family quite well. Miri also has a boyfriend, Mason. There are quite a few other characters that all make sense when you read the novel. Judy Blume did a wonderful job with intertwining the characters so that they all have a connection with someone that can be connected back to Miri.
The story is based off real life events. Judy Blume lived in Elizabeth, New Jersey in the 1950s. During that time, there were three plane crashes in Elizabeth. The first plane crash was December 16, 1951. The second crash was January 22, 1952 and the third crash was February 11, 1952. Blume has done an excellent job recreating the scene. Residents are on edge. Children are frightened, teenagers are coming up with conspiracy theories as to what is going on. People are anxious. Elizabeth is being called, “plane crash city”. Residents have died or been injured in the crash. Natalie’s father, a dentist, has had to identify bodies with their dental records. A girl that Miri used to babysit died when the second plane crashed in the neighborhood and their building caught on fire. Her sister was severely burned. Miri’s boyfriend helped rescue people from the third plane crash. Other characters volunteered with the Red Cross. The residents of Elizabeth want Newark airport to be shut down. And it is temporarily and reopens in November, 1952. After that, flight patterns were rerouted so that they did not fly over Elizabeth.
Even with the terror of the planes falling from the sky, this book was fun to read. Blume is able to paint a vivid picture and I felt transported back to the 1950s. There are moments, such as when Miri gets an “Elizabeth Taylor haircut” that are sweet and reminded me of being fifteen years old. Or when Miri and Mason are dancing for the first time in Natalie’s basement. Or the conversations that Miri has with her girlfriends. The characters in the book continue to live their lives, even though they do not know if and when a plane will crash again. Blume has an amazing ability to create characters that are so relatable; you feel that her characters are your friends and family.
The book is named In the Unlikely Event after the instructional speech that flight attendants give before a plane takes off. “In the unlikely event of a plane crash…” You can find it in print, large print and audiobook