ALL THE NUMBERS by Judy Merrill Larsen
essence of All the Numbers is rooted in the fears that every parent has,
shoved as far below the surface as we can push them, but present
Its plotline came to me at my friend Patty’s lakehouse while we sat on
the dock sipping wine, relaxing, and watching our kids play in the lake.
As jet skiers buzzed just beyond them I thought: what if? What if one of
the kids was out just a bit too deep? What if one of the jet skiers lost
control? And, so it all played out in my mind, like memories unfolding
as they happened. Even before I knew the whole plot, I had a clear image
of the final painful but redemptive, scene.
So, I spent a year thinking and wondering and jotting down notes that
would eventually turn into pages, but I never lost sight of that final
For me, those universal fears of all parents first bubbled to the
surface the night, four weeks before his due date, that my oldest son
was born by emergency caesarean section. Up until the last twenty
minutes of it, my pregnancy had been textbook perfect. I’d eaten cottage
cheese by the bucketful and not a drop of caffeine or wine had crossed
my lips. I’d exercised the appropriate amount, put my feet up when
necessary, and taken my vitamins. But still, in spite of my care, with
no warning, we both nearly died because my placenta separated from the
uterine wall. Nothing could have prevented it; nothing could have
predicted it. And I learned one of the immutable truths of parenting--no
matter how cautious, loving, protective and concerned we are, no matter
how long we breastfeed, how many books we read aloud, or how much we
limit TV time, bad things can happen. And then what?
When I forced myself to imagine the worst, I always wondered if I would
rise to the occasion or sink into the abyss. When I explored these
possibilities through Ellen--who is sarcastic and impatient and
cluttered--and madly in love with her kids, I tried to be as fair as I
could. I wanted her to eventually rise to the occasion (as I hoped I
would), but not until she had wallowed in the depths (as I knew I
No matter how mundane we think our lives are, many of us will face
extraordinary events at least once in our lives. And when we do, it is
easy to think, why me? I played by the rules, I’m not a bad person, so
why this? Why the illness or the unfaithful spouse or the tornado? When
I read about mothers who have faced catastrophe, I always wish I could
get a six-month follow-up. How’d they get out of bed the next day? How
long before they started making supper? Did they ever genuinely laugh
These were the questions I tried to answer for myself through Ellen.
About the author
For the past eleven years Judy Merrill Larsen has been teaching
high school English in suburban St. Louis while raising two sons and
completing a Master’s Degree from Washington University. ALL THE NUMBERS
is her first novel.
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