Judy Blume

In The Unlikely Event

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In The Unlikely Event Summary

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In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume was published in 2015. This novel focuses on protagonist Miri Ammerman. The story takes place in the 1950s, in Elizabeth, NJ, where Miri, her family, and her friends must live with the aftermath of three plane crashes in the space of three months. Unlike most of Blume’s works, In the Unlikely Event is written for adults, and represents a small selection of the author’s work in this category. Blume is best-known for her work writing for children and young adults.

The book begins during Hanukah, and Christmas is right around the corner. Miri goes shopping to buy a gift for her mother, Rusty. She selects a half-slip. Meanwhile, a dancer named Ruby Granik is readying for a trip to Miami. Natalie Osner, Miri’s closest friend, is getting ready for her birthday and Miri’s grandmother sells some compacts to Estelle Sapphire, who sends her husband Ben to pick them up.

After shopping, Miri decides to go to the movies, and it’s then that the first of three planes crashes. Everyone aboard, including Ruby, perishes. Their deaths shock the townspeople, who are unused to tragedy striking so close to home. Henry, Miri’s uncle, writes stories about the crash for the local newspaper while Natalie becomes convinced that she can hear Ruby from beyond the grave, and that Ruby wants her to be a singer. Another character, Christina, who is eighteen years old and from a traditional Greek family, starts dating Jack even though he’s not Greek. Frekki, Miri’s aunt, comes back into Miri’s life after becoming estranged from Rusty. Miri meets her father for the first time and starts dating Mason.

The second plane that goes down takes the life of Kathy, who is on her way home for January break from Syracuse University. Her boyfriend, Steve, is heartbroken. This time, not only does everyone on the plane die, but the plane also kills several people living in Elizabeth. Steve ends up enlisting in the army even though his parents don’t want him to. Natalie begins to lose weight rapidly because Ruby’s voice in her head is now telling her she needs to become a dancer. The rapid weight loss concerns Miri.

The third plane that goes down, in February, is operated by National Airlines. Gaby Wenders works as a stewardess for the airline and is only in her early twenties when the plane crashes. However, she survives, along with thirty-eight others. Two of those thirty-eight later die, but Gaby lives because Mason rescues her. Natalie’s health gets worse and worse, leading to a rift between her and Miri. Natalie spends more time dancing and Miri spends more time with Mason. This isn’t the only consequence of Natalie’s determination to heed Ruby’s voice in her head; her parents get divorced after they can’t agree on how to properly care for her.

After the divorce, Rusty marries Natalie’s father, making Miri and Natalie step sisters. Natalie starts to recover her health, but her closeness with Miri seems forever damaged. Natalie’s father transfers his dental practice from New Jersey to Las Vegas, taking Rusty and Miri with him. After Miri finds out that Mason has been unfaithful, she ends her relationship with him.

In the Unlikely Event fast-forwards after Miri and Mason split. It’s thirty-five years later and most of the citizens of Elizabeth who lived there during those three months when three separate planes went down return to the town to attend a memorial ceremony. As part of the ceremony, Gaby dedicates a plaque to the city for the citizens’ bravery and handling of all three disasters. Miri and Mason meet up. Each of them has their own children now, but they’re able to let the past stay in the past and meet amicably. Jack and Christina are married. Steve doesn’t make it to the ceremony because he died in Korea serving the army years before. Natalie’s father’s health is failing, and as Rusty cares for him, he and Natalie make their peace. Miri decides to write a book detailing the plane crashes and the effects of those events.

In the Unlikely Event was a GoodReads Choice Awards 2015 for Best Historical Fiction nominee. In 1996, Blume won the Margaret Edwards Award. Her most notable novels include: Tiger Eyes, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, and Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing. Though In the Unlikely Event is different because it’s geared toward adults, most of Blume’s works focus on the transition from childhood to adulthood for American females. Because she’s written about topics such as menstruation, masturbation, teen sex and birth control, and death, Blume was named one of the most frequently challenged authors of the 21st century by the American Library Association. Her books have sold upwards of 82 million copies and been translated into more than 30 languages.