In the Unlikely Event

Judy Blume

Pretty sure I haven’t read Judy Blume book since I was maybe at the oldest a preteen. This is not a YA novel: in “This American Life” parlance, it goes a little beyond acknowledging the existence of sex between adults. Based on the true events of three planes crashing in Elizabeth, New Jersey (her hometown), between December 1951 and February 1952, Blume constructs a narrative over a cast of characters affected by the disasters.

It’s kind of too many characters, frankly. I feel like this book would make a better TV mini-series than a novel as some of the shorter sections within the chapters, where she jumps over to someone’s point of view for a few paragraphs before heading on to someone else, might make more sense with visual editing. She starts out each chapter with newspaper clippings, articles written by one of the characters who works as a journalist, which is an interesting way of giving more background yet keeping it integrated into the story. Those clippings seem more random when each crash fades from the headlines, though in those cases they serve more as slice-of-life perspective of 1950s New Jersey. This book is mostly a platform for nostalgia. Outside of aviation catastrophes, the characters have standard Judy Blume troubles, largely those of the heart.