Can you imagine witnessing a plane crash right in the middle of your neighborhood? What about two plane crashes? Or three? All consecutively crashing in the very same town in less than 60 days. It would be unfathomable and terribly incomprehensible. It would be a definitive the-world-coming-to-an-end sort of feeling. The unfortunate series of events all began on December 16, 1951 with a Miami Airlines flight crashing into the river in Elizabeth, New Jersey. The accident instantly killed all 56 passengers.
Less than a month later in January 1952, an American Airlines plane crashed into a row of homes, killing all 23 passengers on board and seven bystanders. The pilot of this plane lived only a few blocks from the crash site, where his pregnant wife and children actually heard the catastrophe before running out in panic. Though Mayor of Elizabeth demanded at the time that Newark Airport be closed, Port Authority denied and claimed it wasn’t airport technicality.
Three weeks later, a National Airline flight headed out to Miami crashed into a residential building in Elizabeth killing 29 passengers out of 63, along with four bystanders. Newark Airport was closed immediately and the city was left to handle the morbid aftermath.
Heavily and accurately based on these true events, Judy Blume’s In the Unlikely Event is about Blume’s hometown sentiments in 1951-52 with characters inspired by her teenage memories and inventiveness of what could have intimately taken place in Elizabeth. The agony of having to move on after a personal encounter to these episodes is endless to grasp but Blume’s narration offers sage interpretations of grief and life that helps to assimilate the experiences into understanding generally how to possibly cope with the irreparable.
Her imaginations acutely and realistically fill the gaps between each disaster, drawing you much closer and more empathetic towards the people and city of Elizabeth. Blume’s storytelling is probably one of the best I’ve ever come across in my life. Her words are so vivid and alive, compassionate and sincere; she easily melts her story right into our reality. At the end of the book I felt like I was closing a long lost family photo album, and even now I find myself wondering what happened to the (nonexistent) characters.
dee’s recommendation: 5/5