In the Unlike­ly Event

Judy Blume
  • Review
By – January 7, 2016

Read­ers who grew up with Judy Blume’s mem­o­rable char­ac­ters will find the same cap­ti­vat­ing, authen­tic qual­i­ties in Miri Ammer­man, the teenage pro­tag­o­nist of Blume’s newest nov­el, In the Unlike­ly Event. Set in the town of Eliz­a­beth, New Jer­sey in the 1950’s, sev­er­al plane crash­es occur only a few months apart, and the town soon spec­u­lates caus­es rang­ing from attacks tar­get­ing the town’s chil­dren to alien inva­sions. Miri’s lov­able Uncle Hen­ry, a reporter for the local paper, writes about the inci­dents and inter­views sur­vivors. Miri and her friends, caught up in social dances and first loves, find them­selves as unlike­ly sur­vivors of the crash­es while rel­a­tives and close friends die or become vic­tims with PTSD-like symp­toms that for­ev­er alter Miri’s relationships.

While Miri’s is the main voice of the nov­el, each sec­tion is from the per­spec­tive of a range of char­ac­ters nar­rat­ing their own sto­ry of sur­vival or loss in rela­tion to the plane crash­es. It is slow­ly revealed that many char­ac­ters are con­nect­ed through cir­cum­stances or rela­tion­ships, show­ing how a small com­mu­ni­ty comes togeth­er dur­ing a time of cri­sis. As the details of the plane tragedies unfold, Miri’s life also unfolds as she matures and learns more about the com­plex­i­ty of love and fam­i­ly. Miri, raised by a sin­gle moth­er, meets new, inter­est­ing rel­a­tives she nev­er knew exist­ed. Each char­ac­ter holds his or her own secrets, and the read­er is able to omni­scient­ly watch and pre­dict the impact of these secrets on oth­er characters.

While the nov­el is not explic­it­ly Jew­ish, many of the char­ac­ters are Jew­ish, using Yid­dish phras­es, dis­cussing Jew­ish hol­i­days, and con­tem­plat­ing inter­faith rela­tion­ships. This com­ing-of-age sto­ry will enter­tain both young adults and adult Judy Blume fans alike, show­ing that the loss of inno­cence opens up a world of unex­pect­ed events and life-chang­ing realizations.

Blume men­tions in the Author’s Notes that the plane crash­es did occur in her home­town of Eliz­a­beth, New Jer­sey, but the char­ac­ters are fic­tion­al. Blume brings to life the every­day expe­ri­ences of that era in this acces­si­ble yet com­plex story.

Relat­ed Content:

Jamie Wendt is the author of the poet­ry col­lec­tion Fruit of the Earth, pub­lished by Main Street Rag Pub­lish­ing Com­pa­ny (2018) and win­ner of the 2019 Nation­al Fed­er­a­tion of Press Women Book Award. Her poet­ry has been pub­lished in var­i­ous lit­er­ary jour­nals and antholo­gies, includ­ing Fem­i­nine Ris­ing: Voic­es of Pow­er and Invis­i­bil­i­tyLilith, Raleigh ReviewMin­er­va Ris­ing, Third Wednes­day, and Saranac Review. Her essays and book reviews have been pub­lished in Green Moun­tains Review, the For­ward, Lit­er­ary Mama, and oth­ers. She holds an MFA from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Nebras­ka Oma­ha. She teach­es high school Eng­lish and lives in Chica­go with her hus­band and two children.

Discussion Questions