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1 Local Warehouse Literature- A to Z

Every Last One

by

Every Last One Cover

ISBN13: 9780812976885
ISBN10: 0812976886
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. Before the unthinkable happens, the Lathams are like any other American family. Discuss Mary Beth and Glen, and their relationship, and then talk about Ruby, Max, Alex, and how they all relate to one another.

 

2. Mary Beth has a successful landscaping business, but she seems more focused on her family than anything else. Talk about Mary Beth as a mother, and discuss the relationships she has with each of her children. How are the relationships similar? Different?  What kind of relationship do they have?  Has Mary Beth focused on her children to the exclusion of her husband?

 

3. Female friendships are deeply important to Mary Beth throughout the novel, though her friendships change dramatically as her life changes. Discuss Mary Beth’s relationships with Alice, Nancy, Deborah (Kiernan’s mother), and Olivia.

 

4. As she thinks back to meeting Glen by chance at a college party decades earlier, Mary Beth reflects: “Our lives, so settled, so specific, are built on happenstance” (72). Do you agree that our lives are built on happenstance? Discuss this quote in the context of the novel.

 

5. Before the tragic events of New Year’s, Mary Beth spends a lot of her time looking forward. She likes to think about the lives her children will have in the future, and in what ways her family will grow and change. At the Halloween party, she thinks about future Halloween parties, and the jokes her grandchildren and children will make at her expense. Then, almost ominously, she thinks, “It’s only before the realities set in that we can treasure our delusions” (117). What do you make of this notion? Is she right?

 

6. As we read the novel, we know something awful is coming, but we don’t know quite what it will be. What did you think might happen to the Lathams? Did you, like Mary Beth, think Max might be behind the attacks on New Year’s at first? Talk about the events of that night, and discuss your reactions to the vicious crime.

 

7. Discuss Ruby’s relationship with Kiernan, and how (and why) it changes. Many people, especially Nancy, seem to think Mary Beth and Glen should have seen the warning signs regarding Kiernan’s increasingly disturbing behavior. Do you think Mary Beth and Glen could have done anything differently?

 

8. The police discover that Kiernan had been living above the Latham’s garage, and they find a disturbing photo montage of the family, with the words “HAPPY FAMILY” scrawled over the images of the Lathams. Mary Beth gets the reference to Anna Karenina, a novel Ruby and Kiernan studied in AP English. She thinks, “Ruby had been disdainful of Anna for leaving her son behind and choosing Vronsky instead. Kiernan has said she couldn’t help it, it was love that made her do it, love that made her leap in front of that speeding train, it was love that made people do things they wouldn’t do otherwise” (179). Talk about Kiernan’s motivations. Was it love that made him do something so awful? Madness? Drugs and alcohol? A combination of all of these things? Can we really ever know why people do such horrible things?

 

9. After New Year’s, Mary Beth’s life is clearly divided into the “before” and “after.” How does she change and adapt to her new life? What gives her the strength to pull through? Do you think she would have been able to go on with her life if she had lost Alex, too? Why or why not?

 

10. Quindlen does a magnificent job portraying Mary Beth’s unimaginable grief at the loss of her family. But she also shows how the loss affects others in the Latham’s circle. Discuss how Alice, Ruby’s friends Sarah and Rachel, Nancy, Mary Beth’s mother, Glen’s family, and others cope with the loss of the Lathams. Did anyone’s reactions surprise you? How and why?

 

11. Alex decides to go see Dr. Vagelos, the doctor who helped Max with his depression. And Dr. Vagelos reaches out to Mary Beth to help her and Alex deal with the loss of their family. Why do you think Mary Beth and Alex had such trouble talking to each other about what happened on New Year’s? Why is it important for them to have open communication?

 

12. Mary Beth explains that Alex was never very emotional, and that’s part of the reason she tried to be strong for him. Dr. Vagelos wisely tells her, “Sometimes children can get more attention because they seem to be in more need of attention. And then there are children who seem so self-possessed and competent that they seem to need less” (285). How does this statement relate to Ruby, Max, Alex, and Kiernan? Do you think Dr. Vagelos is right? Why or why not?

 

13. Mary Beth has always had a complicated relationship with her own mother. But her mother surprises her in many ways after New Year’s. She was the one who identified the bodies of Glen, Ruby, and Max, something Mary Beth doesn’t think she could have done. She tells Mary Beth that they looked like they were sleeping in the morgue. And then Mary Beth thinks, “My mother has done it. She has made me see what she wanted me to see. The one person who understands is the one person I never expected to understand me” (256). Discuss this sentiment.

 

14. Though it’s impossible to say that anything good can come from such a massive tragedy, Mary Beth forms a deep and satisfying friendship with Olivia after the death of her family. How do Olivia and Mary Beth help each other survive?

 

15. Similarly, Mary Beth and Alex start a new kind of relationship after losing their family. Discuss how their mother/son relationship changes, and what each learns about the other.

 

16. At the end of the novel, Mary Beth is settled in her new home, Alex seems to be doing ok, and together they are looking towards the future. When her mother asks how Mary Beth is holding up, she replies that she’s “trying,” and that is all she knows how to do. Discuss how Mary Beth has handled such a horrible tragedy, and what you make of her progress in starting a new life.

 

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Average customer rating based on 3 comments:

sentina, January 19, 2012 (view all comments by sentina)
Along with startlingly clear insight into and descriptions of family members, interactions, and dynamics, this story is like a huge punch in the gut about the possible unexpected traumas and agonies that will far outweigh the common daily irritations and disappointments that we so often mistakenly see as so important. It really puts one's values and focuses in perspective and helps us understand how people can keep on living when it seems like they can't. Value the present, love your family now; don't wait for it to be perfect, or you might miss your chance to love them while they are here.
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Prentise, October 1, 2011 (view all comments by Prentise)
I've been on a binge lately of reading books and authors that I've heard a lot about, and I'm learning they are popular for good reasons. When I look at Anna Quindlen's picture, I think she appears too young to write with such depth and maturity about such complex and serious issues, relationships, events, and emotions. Even though the cover tells about sudden violence exploding into these people's lives, it comes so suddenly and without warning, just like it would in real life, that is painfully, sickeningly believable/unbelievable. Somehow, I couldn't stop reading, even though I didn't want to believe what had happened, just like I wouldn't want to believe it if it happened in my family. I wanted to feel the depths of the mother/wife's experience, her resolution, her conflict, her pain, how other people interact with her -- her family, friends, neighbors, associates, foes, therapist, strangers, dog ... how she goes on living, how violence is taking place frequently everywhere and her tragedy starts to diminish in the minds of others. Even though I couldn't stop reading this book every chance I got until it was finished, I was still relieved when it was over; it is interesting that every book has to end somewhere, and this one's ending leaves you with the feeling of this woman's life going on, day by day, year by year, always with the memories of what happened and who is missing, but being strong and choosing to accept happiness when it comes, and choosing to stay alive and purposeful when it doesn't.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
Prentise, October 1, 2011 (view all comments by Prentise)
I've been on a binge lately of reading books and authors that I've heard a lot about, and I'm learning they are popular for good reasons. When I look at Anna Quindlen's picture, I think she appears too young to write with such depth and maturity about such complex and serious issues, relationships, events, and emotions. Even though the cover tells about sudden violence exploding into these people's lives, it comes so suddenly and without warning, just like it would in real life, that is painfully, sickeningly believable/unbelievable. Somehow, I couldn't stop reading, even though I didn't want to believe what had happened, just like I wouldn't want to believe it if it happened in my family. I wanted to feel the depths of the mother/wife's experience, her resolution, her conflict, her pain, how other people interact with her -- her family, friends, neighbors, associates, foes, therapist, strangers, dog ... how she goes on living, how violence is taking place frequently everywhere and her tragedy starts to diminish in the minds of others. Even though I couldn't stop reading this book every chance I got until it was finished, I was still relieved when it was over; it is interesting that every book has to end somewhere, and this one's ending leaves you with the feeling of this woman's life going on, day by day, year by year, always with the memories of what happened and who is missing, but being strong and choosing to accept happiness when it comes, and choosing to stay alive and purposeful when it doesn't.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780812976885
Author:
Quindlen, Anna
Publisher:
Random House Trade
Subject:
General
Subject:
General Fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Subject:
Literary
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20110331
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
352
Dimensions:
7.98 x 5.15 x .73 in .56 lb

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » Contemporary Women
History and Social Science » American Studies » Popular Culture

Every Last One Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$3.50 In Stock
Product details 352 pages Random House Trade - English 9780812976885 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Spellbinding."
"Review" by , "In a tale that rings strikingly true, [Anna] Quindlen captures both the beauty and the breathtaking fragility of family life."
"Review" by , "We come to love this family, because Quindlen makes their ordinary lives so fascinating, their mundane interactions engaging and important....Never read a book that made you cry? Be prepared for a deluge of tears."
"Review" by , "Anna Quindlen's writing is like knitting; prose that wraps the reader in the warmth and familiarity of domestic life....Then, as in her novels Black and Blue and One True Thing, Quindlen starts to pull at the world she has knitted, and lets it unravel across the pages."
"Review" by , "Packs an emotional punch....Quindlen succeeds at conveying the transience of everyday worries and the never-ending boundaries of a mother's love."
"Review" by , "A wise, closely observed, achingly eloquent book."
"Review" by , "If you pick up Every Last One to read a few pages after dinner, you'll want to read another chapter, and another and another, until you get to bed late."
"Review" by , "Quindlen conjures family life from a palette of finely observed details."
"Review" by , "[Quindlen's] emotional sophistication, and her journalistic eye for authentic dialogue and detail, bring the ring of truth to every page of this heartbreakingly timely novel."
"Synopsis" by , Mary Beth Latham has built her life around her family, around caring for her three teenage children and preserving the rituals of their daily life. When one of her sons becomes depressed, Mary Beth focuses on him, only to be blindsided by a shocking act of violence. What happens afterward is a testament to the power of a woman’s love and determination, and to the invisible lines of hope and healing that connect one human being to another. Ultimately, as rendered in Anna Quindlen’s mesmerizing prose, Every Last One is a novel about facing every last one of the things we fear the most, about finding ways to navigate a road we never intended to travel.
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