Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Archive for September 13th, 2015

Now I’ll Tell You Everything

Posted by nliakos on September 13, 2015

by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor (Atheneum 2013)

As some readers of this blog may know, I am a big fan of the Alice McKinley series, and I’ve been meaning to read this, the last in the series, ever since it came out, but it took me two years to get around to it. Maybe I was worried that it would disappoint.

There were no big surprises. Each chapter covers so much territory; whereas previous books in the series only covered four months of Alice’s life, this one takes her from her freshman year at the University of Maryland until about age sixty, when Alice and members of her seventh grade class dig up the time capsule they buried 48 years earlier. Alice graduates from college, gets engaged, breaks the engagement, gets engaged again. She has sex for the first time. She gets a job. She gets married, moves into her first apartment, buys a home (in Chevy Chase), has kids, deals with problems at work and at home, moves away, moves back to Maryland. Members of her family grow old and die; Alice herself confronts a cancer diagnosis. It’s a whole adult lifetime; a lot happens, but none of it surprised me (not that I really wanted it to). It isn’t as funny or as poignant as the other books because Naylor doesn’t really have the time to build up any suspense about any of it.

It may sound as though I didn’t enjoy it, but that’s not true. I tore through all 511 pages in two days. Although I would not have missed it, I would not recommend it as a stand-alone book. It’s like a love letter from the author to all of her Alice fans, like the one who wrote to her wondering how people would ever know if Alice married Patrick if Naylor happened to die before she finished the series, which prompted her to write a draft and lock it up with instructions to publish it if anything should happen to her.

Incidentally, Naylor lives right here in Gaithersburg, and the book I borrowed from the Gaithersburg library was inscribed, For FOL Gaithersburg–Best wishes, Phyllis Naylor, Jan 2014. The book is full of references to the Washington, DC area, the University of Maryland, and other places Alice and her family live or visit. I was aware of only one gaffe: as far as I know, nobody refers to the UMD student union as “Adele Stamp” (it’s “the Stamp” or just “Stamp”).

Finally, projecting forty years into Alice’s future results in a kind of time warp (because Alice is always contemporary to her readers). But anything else would have been fantasy. And as Alice’s fans know, Alice is real!

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