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A Simple Thing: A Novel
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A Simple Thing: A Novel

3.69  ·  Rating Details  ·  612 Ratings  ·  100 Reviews
A Simple Thing is a lovely, truly heartwarming novel about the drastic measures two mothers take to keep their families safe. Kathleen McCleary, the critically acclaimed author of House and Home, tells the intertwining stories of Susannah Delaney and Betty Pavalak. Susannah moves her family to remote Sounder Island—a primitive retreat with no electricity—to escape televisi ...more
ebook, 304 pages
Published July 24th 2012 by William Morrow Paperbacks
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(showing 1-30 of 2,643)
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Kathleen (Kat) Smith
I am so excited when I find books that really speak to the heart of things I had to endure in my personal life before I found God and this is the perfect example, A Simple Thing by Kathleen McCleary. The subject matter is true to life in this imperfect world but yet the story speaks volumes to those of us hurting in so many different ways, that it doesn't have to stay that way. There is hope and there are ways to deal with those extremely painful times and move forward.

Sounder Island is that pla
Wall-to-wall books - wendy
I think this is going to be my favorite book of the year! This was an amazing story in so many ways. If you were to ask me "What kinds of books do you like?" I say - this kind! Beautiful writing, excellent character development, outstanding scenery descriptions! Absolutely couldn't get any better than this for me. I loved this book! I just read and read but didn't want it to end. This book kind of reminded me of another one of my favorite books - "Still Life With chickens" which I have read twi ...more
Nov 09, 2012 Kara rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: modern-chick-lit
Susannah and Betty both gave up lives in the city for life on a small island off the coast of Washington. Susannah in response to her teenage daughter acting out, and her pre-teen son getting bullied. Betty moved 50 years earlier to placate a cheating husband.

The book was good, but not great. The narration jumps between Susannah and Betty, in different time periods, but the date and narrator is introduced on the title of each chapter.

Susannah really bothered me. She's obsessively worried about
Aug 05, 2012 Victoria rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just finished this book and I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed it. It hit home in many ways in my own life. It is very introspective and lets the reader look at these characters lives as an outsider but all along there are so many ways it lets you look at your own life journeys. I love the two stories in one. To get to know the two women characters and understand their life struggles made the book have a wonderful depth. I think this author has sent up a flair for all us who have gotten sucked ...more
Jul 23, 2012 Jannah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Very good. Imperfect characters that you can identify with and a story that could have been plucked from real life. The main character Susannah, moves her children to a remote island community to save them from themselves, but ends up reminding them all to treasure the simple things. Susannah morphed, changed, and grew throughout this book, a real change, not a cop out ah-ha moment that some books like this give you. Her growth was realistic and rang true. If you like inspirational stories of ho ...more
Kathleen Smith
Jun 15, 2012 Kathleen Smith rated it really liked it
I have to revise my first review, which was not good...As I continued to read I found a couple of the characters hard to deal with ( maybe they pushed a button for me). Susannah was so passive aggressive I wanted to drown her, but I love love loved Barefoot. All women should have a Barefoot. What a unique person who has to be developed in a magical mind. Thanks for the fulfilling read. Anyone struggling with this novel, give it a chance. Good Summer Read.
Kunni Biener
May 28, 2013 Kunni Biener rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wandered in to this reading at the Gaithersburg Book Festival and am so happy I did. What a great book. What a great representation of women and parenting and the most wonderful man. I started it this morning and am almost finished, great day for sitting on the deck and reading, but don't want it to end. When I spoke to Ms. McCleary she said that she wrote "henlit" as opposed to chicklit. I am loving it.
Ann Mah
Oct 13, 2012 Ann Mah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this story set in the San Juan islands off Seattle, where there's no electricity but a lot of heart. I found myself cheering for the main characters as they struggled along the bumpy road of mid-life and parenting tweens.
Mutant Supermodel
Jul 27, 2012 Mutant Supermodel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The novel pivots around two women– Susannah and Betty. Susannah is in her forties, and is married to a geologist named Matt with whom she has two children. Quinn is your typical nerdy outcast in sixth grade and Katie is your typical rude wild child in eighth grade. Betty is in her late seventies, early eighties, is a widow, and has a son named Jim who has a wife named Fiona with whom he has two eighth grade twin boys– Hood and Baker.

Their lives are brought together when Katie gets herself involv
Nov 11, 2012 Olga rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2012
When I first picked up this book I wondered if it was going to be one of those character-driven novels where there is a lot of talking, very little actually going on, and by the end of which you're wondering what is it exactly you've just read. I am not too big of a fan of those. But "A Simple Thing" turned out to focus both on the characters and on plot. From the very first chapter it was obvious that Susannah is a woman who is not afraid to act, even if fear is what propels her. She, as well a ...more
Jun 04, 2012 Ruth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you read my blog regularly, you'll note that I read a lot of Christian fiction. That's partly by choice and partly by happenstance--yes I like it but I've also managed to get myself on the mailing lists of more than a few publicists who handle Christian fiction so I'm offered a lot of review copies. While different books and different authors have different amounts of religion in their books and handle it in ways ranging from sermons dressed as stories to relatively subtle product placement o ...more
Jan 18, 2013 Lauren rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: kindle, book-club
I didn't hate this book, but I didn't much like it either. I think the two star description of "it was ok" fits this book well. Mostly I just feel glad to be finished with it.

First off, the main character Susannah bugged the ever lovin' crap out of me. Im sorry, but every one has problems and every mother with a teenager probably has the same problems and feelings about wanting to keep their kids safe. It in no way constitutes up and leaving your home and husband to go live on a remote island s
Holly Weiss
Jul 08, 2012 Holly Weiss rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hopes nearly dashed by her daughter’s online scandal and suspension from school, Susannah Delaney moves her sweet son and sullen daughter to a remote island off the Oregon coast. So begins A Simple Thing by Kathleen McCleary.

Thirty years ago, Betty Pavalak relocated to Sounder Island as well to raise her son while her fisherman husband was away. Drastic measures must be taken when your family is foundering. Sometimes protecting your children outweighs working on your marriage. Suffering brings b
Aug 02, 2012 Caitlin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
I don't read a lot of domestic fiction. Too often it's about the problems of suburban housewives/mommies or families with a much higher than average income and I just don't really relate having been neither of those categories. I was an urban mommy and have never had a stratospheric income. I decided I was interested in A Simple Thing because the story sounded different and also because it takes place on one of the San Juan Islands - one of my favorite places in the Pacific Northwest. As I child ...more
Sara Strand
Jul 24, 2012 Sara Strand rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
First off, you can tell a lot of heart went into this book. I really love reading a book that obviously had a lot of love, care, and thought put into it because it just makes it that much better.
The book bounces back and forth between Susannah who is pretty much having a mid life crisis once her daughter hits a rough teenage rebellion patch and her son turns out to be kind of an oddball, bully target. Instead of coming together with her husband Matt to figure out a plan for them to move forward
Oct 10, 2012 Keera rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I initially found it hard to get into this book, but once I got there I could not put it down. I found the characters easy to connect with and I loved the emotion flowing through the book. It really is an example of how experiences in life can form us and form our future responses/reactions to situations. It demonstrates the impact family of origin can have on our personalities! It's about love, the difficulties and how life can become mundane. I think it demonstrates that life isn't an easy jou ...more
Jess Pillera
Sep 14, 2012 Jess Pillera rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed this book. The author did an excellent job of depicting the internal conflicts around struggles with guilt, shame, and trauma. There were two main stories dealing with regret and guilt, both from different time periods, both involving different circumstances and outcomes. But they were tied together well and the separate journies to healing merged beautifully. It was a great story about self forgiveness abd acceptance for those things you cannot change.
Natalie Daly
Jul 07, 2014 Natalie Daly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully written, relatively short read. The fullness of the characters and the descriptive language are stand-outs as are the themes of acceptance and self growth through letting go. A must read for any forty-something mothers with challenging teenagers in particular. Great wisdom for a fictional novel.
Shirley Miller
Oct 30, 2013 Shirley Miller rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. A distraught mother takes her troubled kids away from everything they are familiar with to a remote area. They think their life is surely over and she even starts to question her motives for making such a drastic decision. A fast read. Somewhat predictable, but I enjoyed it and read it in a couple of days.
Apr 29, 2013 Christina rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Christina by: Catherine McKenzie
This is a wonderful book about family and about learning from your past and letting it go.
Through her characters Kathleen McCleary reminds us all that we are not defined by the mistakes we make in life, but by how we move forward and carry on with the business of living the best lives we can.

I highly recommend this book!
Sherry Edwards
Jan 20, 2013 Sherry Edwards rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This book is about a woman who leaves the big city to go live on an Island with her two children to get them away from the pressures of a big school and bad friends. She discovers many things about herself along the way of this new journey.
Jan 23, 2013 Zen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Two women, two lives, two generations, one island. A simple thing is a poignant story of two different ladies whose lives crosses with each other on an island that provided a haven for both of them.

Told with two POVs, this book is a page turner.
I didn't hate this book, but there were parts of this book that made me want to pull out my hair. Those things of course, were things that were supposed to get a reaction out of a person, and so it was only fitting that I did have these reactions. For starters I wanted to kill Katie, the insolent teenager, through the entire book, at least until she became a real person at the end and not a spiteful child.

I felt for Susannah as she tried to protect her children, but her husband Mark was right wh
Aug 18, 2012 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars. After learning that her kids are both having problems (her teenager daughter is getting out of control; her pre-teen son's being bullied for his germ phobias), Susannah decides the best course of action is to move them to Sounder Island, a remote island in the San Juans. There, Susannah grows close to Betty, an older woman who moved there years before with her own husband. The island seems to have a lot of charm to life, but life is also hard because of how removed the place is from t ...more
Jul 02, 2012 Nada rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: r-lt
Review first posted on my blog:

A Simple Thing turns out to be anything but simple. Susannah Delaney decides to move to Sounder Island with her son and daughter for a year. Her husband stays behind.

Sounder Island is supposed to be a return to a simpler time - no electricity, no rush of day to day life, a life closer to nature. What she hopes is to bring her family away from the struggles and challenges of life at home - social pressures, bullying, and the
I started out really liking this book, but it fell flat for me as it progressed. Susannah takes her two troubled children, 14 year old Kate and 11 year old Quinn to live on isolated, rustic Sounder Island. She leaves Matt, her husband, behind on the east coast with his promise to visit once a month. (Well, that didn't happen.) He believes that Susannah is once more running away from her own tragic past is being "overprotective" of the children. Somehow, I don't think that a mother is overprotect ...more
Ingrid Fasquelle
May 24, 2015 Ingrid Fasquelle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Professeur à l’American University de Washington, Kathleen McCleary a collaboré à plusieurs journaux, dont le New York Times, le Washington Post et USA Weekend. Elle vit en Virginie avec son mari et leurs deux filles. Les Lumières de l’île est son premier roman traduit en français.

Pour sauver sa famille au bord de l'implosion, Susannah quitte tout pour s'installer avec ses deux enfants sur une petite île dans la baie de Vancouver. C'est dans ce lieu enchanteur, à la fois plein de charme et de my
Oct 05, 2012 Ebeth rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed reading this story, although I wouldn't rank it among my favorites. The main characters quickly drew me into their stories, and there were some wonderful ideas touched upon and a few that were developed. The physical setting felt like a character too, in its beauty and and as it was the place that allowed for significant change and personal growth in the lives of all who dwelt there. However, the end felt too rushed and abruptly wrapped together for me give it 4 stars.
Jul 08, 2014 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I tend to read the books about people running away to start a new life somewhere else. I don't know why.
Dec 03, 2012 Kristen rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This was a quick little book that I read after finishing two in-depth nonfiction books. I just wanted something light and mindless, and it was perfect. A predictable story, some pretty unlikeable and unrealistic characters, but interesting enough to keep my attention for two days.
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I've worked as a journalist, bookseller, bartender, barista, and college professor—all great fodder for fiction. My non-fiction articles have appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Good Housekeeping, More, Health, and other publications. I'm currently working on my fourth novel, teaching creative writing to kids with Writopia (a non-profit), and hiking the Appalachian Trail in small ...more
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