Book Reviews of One True Thing

One True Thing
One True Thing
Author: Anna Quindlen
ISBN-13: 9780385319201
ISBN-10: 0385319207
Publication Date: 5/12/1997
Pages: 304
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.

3.9 stars, based on 107 ratings
Publisher: Delta
Book Type: Paperback
Reviews: Amazon | Write a Review

41 Book Reviews submitted by our Members...sorted by voted most helpful

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Helpful Score: 5
a difficult story. may i never have to face what the main charachter did.
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Helpful Score: 5
Wonderful book about the reconnecting of a daughter as she cares for her dying mother. Funny, sad and impossible to put down.
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Helpful Score: 4
Wonderful story about a family coping with a mother's illness.
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Helpful Score: 4
This was a great book--very, very sad but I could not put it down . A must read
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Helpful Score: 2
This is a story about a woman dying of cancer with a husband at home who is too emotionally juvenile to care for her. Instead he guilts his adult daughter into putting her life and career on hold to move home and care for her mother. This is a story about discovering that your parents are people too, and not always who you thought they were growing up. It was at times hard to read because it makes you question what you would do in the same situation.
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Helpful Score: 2
Very good yarn that looks deep into our own needs and the selfishness that we don\'t like to admit we all have. Sad and though provoking.
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Helpful Score: 2
Very good reading, even the second time when I know the plot.
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Helpful Score: 2
Sometimes this book was difficult to understand and I would have to reread a paragraph or two to grasp it. Having just lost my mother and experienced her death first hand parts of this book brought that all back and made me weep yet again, but I fully understood the deep feelings expressed by Ellen.
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Helpful Score: 2
I enjoyed this book. It was a little bit thought-provoking and definitely a worthwhile read.
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Helpful Score: 2
Her best novel, in my opinion. Do not miss this book! I love the ending. My only complaint is that the sex scene in the middle of the book is not necessary, and prevents it from being taught in a middle school class, because otherwise it would be a great book to have a class read together
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Helpful Score: 2
The first half is superior to the second half in my opinion, but it is still an overall impressive book about redemption, forgiveness and discovering the truth about what we thought we already knew.
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Helpful Score: 2
This was a wonderful book. I couldn't put it down. Having just lost a parent, I thought it would be hard for me to read. But her characters were right on with what I was feeling. I'll have to read more of this author.
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Helpful Score: 1
Heartbreaker about a family dealing with terminal illness.
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Helpful Score: 1
Okay. A little depressing.
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Helpful Score: 1
Excellent read.
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Helpful Score: 1
Editorial Reviews
One True Thing is a film starring Meryl Streep as the cancer-stricken homemaker mother, Renee Zellweger as the daughter who quits her top-dog job to care for her, and William Hurt as the chilly professor who lets the women in the family do the heavy emotional lifting dying requires. But the real star of the project remains former New York Times everyday-life columnist Anna Quindlen, who quit her top-dog job to write novels (and who took time off from college to nurse her own dying mother).

Quindlen hit a nerve with One True Thing, which captures an experience seldom dealt with in popular culture. (One exception: the sensitive 1996 film with Streep and Leonardo DiCaprio of the play Marvin's Room.) Though the heroine of One True Thing, Ellen Gulden, is a golden girl with two brothers who'll lose her career the instant she steps off the fast track, society concurs with her dad, who says, "It seems to me another woman is what's wanted here."

The book is a mother-daughter tale that should please fans of, say, The Joy Luck Club. It's not flashy, but it has a deep feel for the way children often discover, just before it's too late, who their parents really are. "Our parents are never people to us," Ellen writes, "they're always character traits.... There is only room in the lifeboat of your life for one, and you always choose yourself, and turn your parents into whatever it takes to keep you afloat." The mercy-killing subplot isn't gripping, but the palpable sense of deepening family intimacy certainly is.

From Publishers Weekly
Quindlen's story of a woman accused of helping her mortally ill mother die spent seven weeks on PW's bestseller list
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This is a novel of life, love and everyday acts of mercy. It is fiercely compassionate and frank...conveys a world so out of kilter and so like our own, that its readers are likely to feel both exhilarated and unnerved by its accuracy.

This is a remarkable book. She writes about family with all the humanity. wit and pain of going home. This is a strikingly honest and transforming book.
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very good read
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What a great book ! I so felt for Ellen. She tried to do what was best in a tough situation and pulled it off with great grace and skill. This book really digs into what families are like and how people react in the face of adversity and what it takes to just do what needs to be done. Two thumbs up !!
reviewed One True Thing on
A young woman sits in jail accused of murder. While she claims that she is in fact innocent of the charges against her, she also says that the crime was actually an act of mercy. She tells everyone who will listen that she may know who committed the crime.

When Ellen Gulden first learns that her mother, Kate, is suffering from cancer, the disease has already become far advanced. Actually, she has always held a special place within her family. As the oldest of three children, Ellen has always been seen as the high achiever of the family; her father's intellectual match, and the person who is most caught in the middle between her parents. So, when her father insists that Ellie quit her job and come home to care for Kate, she feels obligated to fulfill her father's wishes.

However, while everyone else sees Ellen's role in the family as that of the dutiful daughter, she sees herself as very different from her mother. Kate Gulden was always the talented homemaker, the family's popular center, its one true thing. Ellen secretly believes that she will never truly measure up to her mother, no matter what she does. Yet as she begins to spend more time with Kate, Ellen learns many surprising things, not only about herself but also about her mother, a woman she thought she knew so well.

As the days progress for Ellen and Kate, the life choices both women have made are reassessed in this deeply personal and poignant novel, a work of fiction which is inbued with richly detailed and profound insights into the complex lives and relationships of men and women. I have to say that while this book dealt with a very heavy subject, it was still very well-written. In my opinion, Ms. Quindlen treated such a difficult subject with a certain amount of tenderness and sympathy for all involved.

To be perfectly honest, while I came to understand the main character by the end of the story, I would have to say that she didn't have the most appealing personality to start with. I found her to be somewhat annoying and self-absorbed; although she became a more sympathetic character to me the further that I read. I would also say that my initial impressions would perhaps have to be deliberately created by the author. I would give this book a definite A+!
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Better than the movie and probably better if it wasn't athe abridged version.
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This is unabridged.

When I started reading One True Thing, it took me a while to realize I had already seen the movie with Meryl Streep, but as is the case most of the time, the book is undoubtedly better. The book explores complicated family dynamics that are revealed to the reader as Kathy Gulden, the mother who uses her acute intelligence, warmth, creativity and nurturing and loving spirit to devote herself to her children and to her husband, is diagnosed with terminal cancer. Ellen Gulden, is the first child and she is her father's "golden girl." Her father is a professor of English at the local Langhorne College. Ellen and her father share a love of the written word and they have always engaged in esoteric debates and discussions about literature. In short, Ellen idolizes her "brilliant" and charming father, whom everyone else seems to adore, and she looks at her mother's homemade Christmas decorations, expertly made casseroles and well-managed home with a sort of disdain. Ellen's two younger brothers are unable to bond with the father as she does, and the feeling one gets is that the brothers don't seem to "pass muster" in the father's eyes.

This is a story of personal transformation and the destruction of illusions within a family. Ellen is guilted into caring for her dying mother, and she does it at first to garner her father's approval. As the novel unfolds, Ellen begins to see the reality of who her mother truly is. She discovers her mother is not just some cardboard figure who has wasted her life baking brownies for her family. ELlen learns life is so much more complicated than that. SHe learns things about her father that she never could have imagined.
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A young woman returns home to care for her dying mother and ends up being tried for her murder.
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Excellent story!!
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Overall, a decent book that makes you think. The writing is shakey at times.
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Another great raed from Anna Quindlen. Compelling and emotional.
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Great book, extremely sad however esp. if you are dealing with the illness and to be expected death of a parent.
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I really enjoyed this book!
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I love anything by Quindlen!
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I enjoyed this book. The story was deep and flowed well. I could really picture the characters and identify with them during the story. I recommend it.
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Another author who's style of writing seems a little tedious for myself.
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Better than the movie. A good mother/daughter story.
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A pretty good book, filled with tough decisions and tough love.
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pretty interesting book; deals with cancer and mother/daughter relationships as well as parents relating with adult children. sad story
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I loved this book. I cried from the beginning to the end.
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It catches your attention with the love that exists between mother and daughter. I've reread it twice.
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A story about a family dealing with terminal illness.
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Very moving and can relate to anyone that has taken care of and suffered the loss of a loved one. It's very true, doesn't sugar coat the family life of someone that's terminally ill. A great read and actually very inspiring.
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I was completely blown away by this book. I have always appreciated Oates' short stories but until this book her only novel I had read was We Were the Mulvaneys and frankly, though I liked it, I was not blown away by it.
You Must Remember This has so many back burner stories and characterizations along with the main storyline & the main characters that at the beginning of the book I anticipated a lot of confusion. But Oates writes with such brilliance that there is never a problem of that. I found her writing to be absolutely masterful.
She takes something which most authors would present as a dirty little secret and makes it something very believable and at times even beautiful.
It is the 1950s and the Stevick family, Hannah and Lyle, have a son (Warren) going to fight in Korea, 3 daughters; Geraldine, who will soon be marry and begin a family, Lizzie, who will become the family rebel, finish school and move out...and go to live in a flat with two of her girlfriends, and the youngest, Enid, has a fascination with death & soon with her Uncle Felix.
The book is about all of these people and the people in their lives. Mr. Stevick is a businessman with a store of used and unpainted furnishings. Mrs. Stevick is a homemaker who becomes a dressmaker as her children leave the home. Mr. Stevick's brother, the children's Uncle Felix, is a boxer. There is a story within the novel about pugilism which I found quite interesting. The youngest daughter's obsession with death and dying runs through the entire book and is written in quite a different manner than I have ever read before though I have read a lot of books on suicide.
I found the entire novel to be fascinating. I don't know that all would warm to it. But for those who enjoy a quirky, twisty, turny story about a family I think this one will fit the bill. And it is to those I very highly recommend this book by Oates.
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An excellent well written book. Better than the movie. This was so poignant and real that it was painful to read at times, having gone through similar experience. Anyway great book!
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Is this what life is really like, think about it.