Judy Blume is primarily known for her beloved novels for young people but she has also written for adults throughout her long career, most recently 1998’s coming of age tale Summer Sisters. In the 16 years since, Blume has maintained a fairly relaxed work rate – editing a collection of short stories by authors censored in the USA (1999), a fourth entry in her Fudge series of children’s books (2002), a couple of picture books (2007, 2008). Next year, however, she is set to reemerge with a new novel for older readers, one based around a mysterious series of plane crashes that took place in the same New Jersey town over a three month period in the early 1950s.
In the Unlikely Event focuses on three generations of residents of Elizabeth, New Jersey, whose lives are in some way affected by the downing of numerous passenger aircraft as 1951 becomes 1952 (shortly after Blume enters her own teen years). Alfred A Knopf, Blume’s American publisher, quotes her as saying ‘These events have lingered in my mind ever since […] It was a crazy time. We were witnessing things that were incomprehensible to us as teenagers. Was it sabotage? An alien invasion? No one knew, and people were understandably terrified.’ Blume herself has tweeted that she began researching the novel five years ago.
Per Knopf’s blurb for the book, against this background, ‘life goes on and Blume digs deep into her characters – we see them coping not only with grief but with first love, estranged parents, difficult friendships, familial obligations, divorce, career ambitions, a grandparent’s love, a widower’s hope, and everything in between.’
Knopf will publish In the Unlikely Event in the US on 2 June 2015. Picador has bought the UK and Commonwealth rights, with editorial director Francesca Main saying of the acquisition: ‘In the Unlikely Event is a beautifully drawn, deeply moving, unforgettable novel from a master storyteller. It has a big canvas, yet never feels any less than intimate and immediate. As one of millions whose teenage years were immeasurably enriched by reading Judy Blume, it is an indescribable honour to be publishing this book.’