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In the Unlikely Event Hardcover – Deckle Edge, June 2, 2015

3.7 out of 5 stars 1,872 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of June 2015: Three planes crash in a small town in New Jersey over the course of just two short months. Sounds like the backdrop of a horror movie, or in this post 9/11 world, something more sinister. But this actually happened in Elizabeth, New Jersey in the early 1950s, when beloved children’s author Judy Blume (Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.) was a young girl, experiencing the horror firsthand. Who, or what, was responsible—Communists? Martians? With no obvious explanation to cling to for comfort, this terrified community could only wait for something much bigger than the next shoe to drop. This is all big, mind-blowing stuff. But in her novel In the Unlikely Event, which like Summer Sisters is written for an adult audience, Blume travels back to that time and tells the more intimate stories within the larger one, to help us better comprehend the incomprehensible, and learn the lessons that are the only bright side of catastrophe. And the overarching moral, here, is to not let fear limit your possibilities. Through the various characters that inhabit this multigenerational tale, Blume beseeches us to not be afraid to get on a plane, take career risks, pursue your dreams, fall in love…After all, life is made up of unlikely events, and they “aren’t all bad. There are good ones, too.” --–Erin Kodicek


In the Unlikely Event gives us everything that Blume is known (and beloved) for—the fierce, fraught nature of young relationships, the comfort and confines of cultural identity, the messiness and joys of the body—and takes it to a new level. This novel is her most ambitious to date, and she lives up to its reach with her characteristic frankness, compassion, and charm.” —Gayle Brandeis, The San Francisco Chronicle

“Judy Blume isn’t just revered, she’s revolutionary. . . . The novel moves with momentum, told in short chapter bursts, newspaper reports and even scripted dialogue. . . . Blume nails every 1950s detail, from the refinished basements with wet bars and knotty-pine walls to Elizabeth Taylor haircuts and mentions of Bogart and Bacall. . . . 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.” —Caroline Leavitt, The New York Times Book Review

“An ambitious book that combines adult experience with the sweet familiarity of Blume’s writing for and about younger people. . . . The novel rivals Tolstoy or Ferrante in its number of characters, families, and stories, and it feels not just believable but like a regular preteen-style Judy Blume page-turner, emotionally resonant and down-to-earth at once. . . . It’s also the experience of being in Blume’s authoritative hands, reading a dramatic story about daily life told in a funny, orderly, honest style. Blume is always kind to her readers; the suffering her characters experience feels real but never cruel, never melodramatic. . .  . [Her books are] deftly crafted, and she’s done the hard work for us. . . . Reading In the Unlikely Event is like reconnecting with a long-lost friend.” —Sarah Larson, The New Yorker

“Judy Blume is back—and on her game! . . . A deftly written story that captures a town coping with loss and the sudden fame that horrible tragedy brings. You won’t want to turn the last page.” —Kim Hubbard,People Magazine

“Will appeal to loyal fans as well as new readers. . . . In Miri, Blume deftly exposes the inner life of a teenager girl during the 1950s—and not the sanitized version so often portrayed. In the Unlikely Event integrates Blume’s acclaimed observation of the teenage experience with intimate knowledge of an unusual series of events, making it a page-turner with cross-generational appeal.” —Meganne Fabrega, Minneapolis Star-Tribune

“Quite simply, extraordinary.” —Viv Groskop, The Guardian (U.K.)

“[In the Unlikely Event] does not disappoint. . . . 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—characterizes her adult novels as distinctly as it does her YA output.” —Emily Simon, Buffalo News

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

“Satisfying, heartfelt. . . Delivers on the warm nostalgia that we remember from Blume’s earlier books. . . It is her signature unparalleled ability to capture the innermost lives of teenagers that makes In the Unlikely Event vintage Judy Blume.” —Melissa M. Firman, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“The details of the time and place ring true, and so do the feelings of the characters.” —Margaret Quamme, The Columbus 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.” —Aimee Levitt, Chicago Reader

“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.” —Alexis Burling,The Oregonian

“Blume, in clear and forthright storytelling, creates realistic characters searching for happiness while dodging the obstacles placed in their way. She does it with a compassionate understanding of life’s setbacks and the power we all have to survive and move on.” —Carol Memmott,Chicago Tribune

“Has [Judy Blume’s] signature warm, personal touch.” —Megan O’Grady, Vogue.com

“It’s Judy Blume and, therefore, it’s gold. . . . Despite tragedy at its core, [In the Unlikely Event] soars.” —Jacqueline Cutler, Newark Star Ledger

“A heartfelt novel intended to be heartwarming. In that it fully succeeds.” —Sherryl Connelly, New York Daily News

“Has [Judy Blume’s] signature warm, personal touch.” —Megan O’Grady, Vogue.com
“Comfort reading at its most soothing, the turn of its pages like sitting down with a beloved, long-lost friend.” —Lucy Scholes, The Independent(U.K.)

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

“There is no surprise that [In the Unlikely Event] is smoothly written, and its story compelling. The setting—the early 1950s—is especially well realized. . . A new Blume novel will always be big news.” —Michael Cart, Booklist (starred review)


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; First Edition edition (June 2, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1101875046
  • ISBN-13: 978-1101875049
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.4 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1,872 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #25,826 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Judith L. Mandel on June 3, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I read In the Unlikely Event with a mix of curiosity and anticipation, knowing that the second plane crash described in Judy Blume’s book was based on the real-life crash that hit my family’s home in 1952 and is the central event in my memoir, Replacement Child (Seal Press, 2013). Ms. Blume sent me an advance copy and also gives acknowledgement to my book as part of her research for her novel.

The book is a skillful blend of fiction and reality, using historical facts of the three Elizabeth, NJ plane crashes in 1951-52 as backdrop to the story. I loved the way she adapted the flowery language of 50’s journalism for her fictional news articles that headed up some chapters of the book. I think my favorite character is uncle Henry, the reporter, for his level-headed clear thinking in the face of borderline hysteria surrounding the succession of plane crashes. Having spent much of my childhood around my dad’s store, Goldblatt Jewelers, on Broad Street in Elizabeth, I was tickled by the references to the landmarks and shops I remembered (including my dad’s store!). If you enjoy a good story with a vivid setting, laced with interesting historical information, this story will captivate you as all of Judy Blume’s stories do. The pages fly.
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Format: Hardcover
An adult novel by Judy Blume IS an event. How cool is it that at the age of 77 she brings forth a fully realized novel that contains the same humanity, richness, and relateable characters that we have come to expect from her?

In the Unlikely Event takes place in Blume's hometown of Elizabeth, New Jersey, during a time in the early 1950s when the city was shattered by three plane crashes within a short period of time. The neighbors in the diverse working class city are baffled and frightened--how likely is such a thing to happen not once but three times? What is behind such a thing? People are jittery with thoughts of a communist conspiracy, space aliens, another war. Fifteen year old Miri Ammerman lives in Elizabeth with her single mother, uncle and grandmother. She's the center of the large cast of characters--each one of whom could spin a novel themselves--who try to navigate this strange period when passenger planes plummet from the skies into the center of their lives.

It's a fully engaging novel, with a cast of characters that's almost too big. There are those "Wait a minute, who's that again? moments. It's okay, just leaf back and pick them up. It's a pleasure to have one of Judy Blume's adult works to enjoy.
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Format: Hardcover
I am a huge Judy Blume fan and couldn't wait for this book to come out. This is a decent book, but I found it disappointing. I have two main problems with it. First, there were way too many characters to track. I understand that she was trying to paint a picture of the town and give some flavor, but there were just too many people. The large amount of minor characters distracted me and made it more difficult for me to get to know the main characters. On that note, many of the characters felt one dimensional and remote to me. The story was written in the third-person and I wonder if a first-person perspective would have felt more intimate.

My second major issue is that the book felt like it was geared more towards young adults. I think this is because the majority of the book focused on 15 year old Miri. I would have preferred to hear more from the adults in the story.

I wonder why she didn't just write this as a memoir? That may have been more effective. In any event, I did enjoy the story, but I won't be turning to re-read it for years to come, as I frequently do with Summer Sisters and Judy's other adult fiction.
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By J. Lore on June 12, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I cannot recommend this book. In the Unlikely Event has multiple points of view and after awhile it gets tiresome. It's impossible to care about all of the characters equally and you can never settle into the story when you're forever skipping around to other people's point of view. Miri is ostensibly the main character, but we spend time with everyone from her step-grandfather to her dentist's receptionist. I do not care about the dentist's receptionist's sexual issues. Not because I'm a prude, but because she is a minor character. Blume never really prioritizes any storyline over another, so we spend as much time on the dentist's receptionist as other, more compelling characters.
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I like the story. As an ardent Russian literature buff, I actually didn't think there were too many characters. I just didn't think their stories were developed well enough to make them memorable. I was annoyed by the stereotypical Greek character, Christina, and her stereotypical Greek family. I find it interesting that the many Jewish families in this book were not stereotypical at all.

As I said, I like the story. But it had such a slow start, and halfway through the book, I kept wondering, "Is this going anywhere?" Finally, it takes off about 2/3 of the way through. But the last third seems to skim so much of the best part -- where we see how all these characters and stories come together.

While the author's focus was most likely on accurately writing about the plane crashes, I kept getting distracted by discrepancies in other areas. For one, anorexia nervosa wasn't really diagnosed until after the 1960's, and even then, it was rarely diagnosed until the 1980's. Mason and Jack's story seemed too good to be true -- for two boys who escaped serious domestic violence and lived in an orphanage, they seemed to have very normal lives and very typical behaviors. It surprised me that so few characters in the book took issue with their family-status, not to mention these boys didn't seem to be obviously orphan. And finally, I noticed that a lot of people said, "It's just like you're right back in the 1950's!" This book doesn't read at all like the 1950's. In fact, I kept having to remind myself that this story took place 64 years ago. Sure, the events line up -- but the language doesn't.
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