September 24, 2007

One True Thing

One True Thing by Anna Quindlen
Contemporary Fiction
Finished on 9/12/07
Rating: 4.5/5 (Terrific!)
2007 TBR Challenge #7

Publisher's Blurb: 

She was Ellen Gulden, successful magazine writer, who ate ambition for breakfast--and anyone who got in her way for lunch. Until the day she quit her job, left New York, and returned to her scorned hometown to care for her dying mother. Ellen Gulden had something to prove--she had to prove she had a heart. Five months later she stood before a grand jury, accused of killing her own mother.
Suddenly, she was Ellen Gulden, daughter, stepping into her mother's role as the quintessential homemaker, seeing into her mother's soul. Discovering a woman she had never truly known, and now Ellen Gulden was about to accept responsibility for an act she did not commit...

Last month I had the pleasure of reading a collection of Quindlen's essays. The success of that read prompted me to quickly pick up One True Thing for my September selection for the 2007 TBR Challenge. I've owned this book for many, many years; probably bought it soon after seeing the movie back in 1998. I couldn't help but picture Meryl Streep, William Hurt and Renee Zellweger as I read the novel and while most of the storyline was still familiar after almost a decade, I'd forgotten one key element which increased my enjoyment, making it impossible to put down.

One would think a story about a daughter returning home to take care of her cancer-stricken mother would be maudlin and sappy, but Quindlen is a superb storyteller, drawing the reader in with deftly drawn details of suspense and drama, all the while avoiding overwrought and gratuitous sentimentality. This is definitely one to read and watch a second time. Off to Netflix to put the movie in our queue.


  1. Anonymous8:13 PM

    I agree. Fantastic book AND movie. Meryl Streep was brilliant.

  2. I think One True Thing is Quindlen at her very best!

  3. Yay! Very glad you enjoyed this one!

  4. I've never actually read an Anna Quindlen novel before. But I used to love her editorials in Time (or Newsweek...I forget which one it was now!) She has a knack for writing, that's for sure.

  5. Very good review, Les. I may just try it. I wonder how much AQ's mom's death influenced her writing. I've only read her very first book other than her nonfiction. Thanks for the writeup.

  6. Jen - I didn't realize you'd read this. And, yes, Streep was fabulous. If you haven't seen her in Prairie Home Companion, I highly recommend that. It's nothing like One True Thing, but Streep is magnificent in it, too. Her singing brought tears to my eyes!

    Jenclair - I agree, although I think Black & Blue was very good, too. Oh, and Blessings is another good one. I just didn't care for her very first novel (title escapes me right now).

    Andi - I did! I did! :)

    Stephanie - She certainly is a talented writer. I've started reading her Newsweek columns (online) and have read a few of her nonfiction books, as well. She's one of my favorite authors.

    Nan - Thank you! I wonder about her mom's death, too, although she was quite a bit younger than her character in One True Thing. Wasn't she just 11?


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