Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “One True Thing” as Want to Read:
One True Thing
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

One True Thing

4.01  ·  Rating Details ·  31,729 Ratings  ·  1,057 Reviews
Ellen Gulden leaves her life as a successful New York journalist, to return home and care for her mother Kate diagnosed with cancer. In the short time they have left, the relationship between mother and daughter - tender, awkward and revealing - deepens, and Ellen is forced to confront painful truths about her adored father. After Kate's death, Ellen goes from devoted daug ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published August 8th 2006 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 1994)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about One True Thing, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about One True Thing

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Amanda
Jan 25, 2008 Amanda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the book that changed everything for me ... I used to HATE reading! I was a slow reader and my mind would wander while I read. During one of my last semesters of college, I took an elective course called Death and Dying. Instead of a final exam, we were required to read this book and then write a paper about it. I did not enjoy reading, so I was pleasantly surprised when I couldn't put the book down! This was almost 10 years ago, so I'm not sure if the book was really that remarkable, bu ...more
Elyse
Jan 05, 2016 Elyse rated it it was amazing
This was my favorite Anna Quindlin book!
People who might consider reading this:
Mothers...daughters...
Husbands & wifes...
People who value education...
People who value family...
People who value community...
People who have ever cheated -have thought of cheating --or have been a child of parents who have...
People who question 'what's right' and 'what's wrong.....(are willing to consider that maybe YOU'VE got it backwards).
People who know 'somebody' who has had cancer
People who know people who ha
...more
☮Karen
Mar 01, 2013 ☮Karen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I just love Anna Quindlen. She understands life, she understands death, grieving, and our complex human emotions. And her writing is perfection; beautiful enough to bring me to tears. Quindlen had me contemplating how I view my own family stories. Are our relationships really how we imagine them, or just a “vast web of misunderstandings, a tinted and touched up family portrait, an accurate representation of fact that leaves out only the essential truth”?

Ellen has reluctantly quit her successful
...more
Britany
Aug 23, 2014 Britany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Cancer Sucks!!

This book hit way too close to home for me on multiple levels. I lost my grandmother 3 years ago to Cancer, and my family moved into her home to help take care of her, eventually bringing in a nurse until we finally had to move her into hospice. I can't imagine going through this with my own parents and having these feelings and emotions illustrated so perfectly raw really took me to a whole new level of gratefulness.

Ellen comes home to take care of her mom (against her will) whi
...more
Heidi
May 30, 2012 Heidi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
I have been wanting to read this book, but have been reluctant to start it. I feared it would strike too close to home, and bring up many feelings of my mom's illness and death. The book did do so, of course, but in a good way...it was oddly cathartic, reassuring, and comforting. Moving the furniture around to fit the hospital bed in the living room...looking at the house layout and stairs in a whole new way. The line where she says she thinks it would be difficult to bury someone in the beginni ...more
Karen
Mar 13, 2016 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One True Thing by Anna Quindlen
This book is one of my favorite books by Anna Quindlen. Many years ago I read Black and Blue by this same author and it was frighteningly realistic about what it feels like to have to change your name, live in hiding, constantly on hyper alert. Because restraining orders don't save lives, when they are not taken seriously, by habitual abusers. Black and Blue, if I remember correctly, was more plot driven than One True Thing. Both are written earlier in Quindlen's w
...more
D. VonThaer
Jul 10, 2012 D. VonThaer rated it it was amazing
This is one of my all-time favorite books.

You can read the synopsis for yourself, but in short Ellen Gulden is a Harvard-educated writer living in New York, on the cusp of greatness. Her father is a Lit. Professor and Ellen connects with him, more than her stay-at-home mother, Kate.

Kate is diagnosed with cancer, and with the urging of her father, Ellen leaves the city and moves home to help take care of her mother and the chores. The mind-numbing existence her mother leads quickly takes a toll
...more
Vicki
Feb 21, 2008 Vicki rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that haunts you long after you read it. It is about the relationships between an adult daughter, her dying mother and the father she adores. The daughter puts her career on hold to return home, as her father demands, to care for her mother. I read it a year or so after caring for my own dying mother, and several passages were so perfectly descriptive of the emotionally charged experience that I was moved to tears. Quindlen writes as though from experience, though her o ...more
Jennine Jones
Mar 17, 2008 Jennine Jones rated it it was amazing
I read this book shortly after my own Mom died, so it was especially painful. I loved the book and cook club and how the daughter finally was able to establish an adult relationship with a woman she had totally misjudged. The book explores being pulled painfully out of our childhood misconceptions about who our family members are. The daughter gained a mother just to lose her, and lost a father after being forced to see him exposed to the harsh light of reality rather than through childish adora ...more
Margie
Aug 22, 2007 Margie rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
There are some authors I'm interested in reading, but instead of reading a variety of their books, I end up rereading the same book repeatedly. One True Thing is one of those books for me. I keep thinking I'm going to read Black and Blue or Object Lessons, but read this instead. Maybe I should add a bookshelf called "books I'm tired of re-reading".

To me, the best parts of the book are her descriptions. She paints very vivid word pictures. Once or twice during my most recent reading I was so take
...more
Asghar Abbas


I got this because the girl I was into at that time was into this book, but I just couldn't get into it.

It was OK. OKish. Maybe it's great or maybe it's below average.

I don't know. I was too irritated even then with the company it kept, with whom it associated to enjoy it really.

Quindlen's Black and Blue is actually pretty good.

That one I did enjoy and even liked.

Don't fall for a good woman, you'll end up disliking a perfectly good novel as a result of your failure and shortcomings, of not l
...more
Amy
Dec 18, 2008 Amy rated it really liked it
I'm often distrustful when critics call a novel remarkable, but in this case they are right. Funny thing was that when this was made into a movie, and I heard Meryl Streep was in it, I thought she was all wrong for the part-- because I envisioned her as the daughter (ie ,i>my age) not as the mother, who should have been my mom's age. I laughed when I learned she played the mom, because of course, that was good casting. :)
Bonnie
Feb 22, 2008 Bonnie rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I really like Anna Quindlen. I think she writes very real, ordinary books that show a hidden, beautiful side of human nature. An especially poignant story about mother-daughter relationships.
Sharon Metcalf
Feb 14, 2017 Sharon Metcalf rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017
One True Thing by Anna Quindlen was a gently meandering character driven novel shining the light upon family dealing with a terminal illness. It was moving, beautifully written, and a delight to read.

Early on I couldn't relate to Ellen the novels protagonist. She struck me as hard hearted, self centred and lacking in emotion. I couldn't understand her reluctance toward coming home to care for her mother during the last months of her life. During the months spent caring for her mother Ellen devel
...more
Pamela
Jul 10, 2015 Pamela rated it it was amazing
Shelves: book-club, 2015
Once upon a time, there was a woman who lost her mother then her sister to cancer, within two years of each other. She mourned and missed them but time went by and she healed. Then 14 years later, she read this book and some things she had forgotten came back to her. Hard.

Anna Quindlen did a remarkable job of describing the losses that come with cancer’s inexorable march—losses that do not include the death of the loved one with the cancer. The loss of ability, of dignity, of a way of life, of t
...more
Kathryn
This was a bit of a slow start for me, and I felt the epilogue was a bit long and drawn-out, but it really picked up about half-way through, and part of the epilogue was great.

The book reminded me a little bit of The End of Your Life Book Club, although that was non-fiction and this is a work of fiction. But a young woman returns to the family home to take care of her mother as she undergoes cancer treatments and, in order to give her an "in" to her daughter's thoughts (they hadn't been very clo
...more
C. McKenzie
Jan 28, 2014 C. McKenzie rated it it was amazing
When Ellen Gulden must quit her job and return home to care for her dying mother, Ellen is resentful. Guilt is a close companion to that resentment, but as she and her mother connect during the weeks Ellen comes to know the woman who reared her as someone much more than the clever homemaker and civic minded individual of her childhood. She also comes to see her father and herself from a whole different perspective.

One True Thing is a powerful story about family, about life, about death; it leav
...more
Joan Winnek
Nov 22, 2010 Joan Winnek rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am loving this book, as I have the other Qundlen books I've read recently. And now I'm back on goodreads--I've been MIA while dealing with hospital, convalescent hospital, and now assisted living.

Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is the best, the most carefully written, of all Quindlen's books I've read so far.
Stacey
Mar 10, 2017 Stacey rated it it was amazing
I really loved this. The characters, the family dynamics, and yes that moral dilemma.
Book Concierge
Ellen Gulden is a 23-year-old up-and-coming magazine writer living in New York City, when her mother is diagnosed with terminal cancer. On a visit home her father tells her that she simply must leave her job and return to help her mother. Kate has always been the quintessential homemaker – excelling at cooking, decorating, sewing, stenciling, needlepoint – every craft and skill to make her house a loving and welcoming home. Ellen has been more like her father – driven and ambitious, given to lit ...more
Leslie
Aug 23, 2012 Leslie rated it it was ok
Not my favorite book. Probably should have read it in the month of Feb instead of smack in the middle of the summer when you want light happily ever after. I loathed the father, all the choices he made and the fact that the family compromised for him every time. My biggest issue was the fact that it was assumed that the only caregiver possible was the daughter only because she was a girl. Neither of the sons even asked if they could help with the care. She had to move, quit her job and totally c ...more
Melani
Sep 12, 2013 Melani rated it really liked it
This novel read like a memoir: One True Thing = many true things. I had to stop reading and take breaks, because it was so intimately sad (and I have not had or nursed someone with cancer). The ending felt like it was written by a different author - didn't ring true, somewhat contrived - but it is easy to forgive.
Debra
Mar 07, 2011 Debra rated it really liked it
Stephen King recommended.

This book was much better than I expected. It's not generally the type of story I'm drawn to, but it was well-written and the characters were well-developed.
Judy
Apr 19, 2014 Judy rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Beautiful and sensitive book about life, love, choices and consequences. Family life as it is and how it changes with crisis. Excellent book and well written.
Jacob Hale
Sep 02, 2007 Jacob Hale rated it did not like it
The plot line is simple: a young woman (Ellen Gulden) starting her career in New York City is called back home, to the small college town in which she grew up, to be a caretaker while her mother (Kate Gulden) is dying of cancer. Ellen had never been close to her mother, but had sought her father's approval and emulated him in some regards; her father pressures her into caretaking her mother. As one would expect, tensions arise as a result of these familial relationships. The plot twist is that w ...more
Linda Hart
Aug 18, 2016 Linda Hart rated it it was amazing
5 stars because Quindlen is a wordsmith. This is about a daughter who gives up brilliant career to care for her dying mother, only to be accused of her death. It is a thought and emotion provoking story with a great twist at the end. There is a time, hopefully, in all daughter's lives when they begin to see their mother as a real person. As the protagonist discovers more about who her mother is, she discovers more about herself. Quindlen explores what we think we know about ourselves and those c ...more
Christine
Feb 28, 2017 Christine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Anna Quindlen is one of my favorite writers but at the time she wrote this book, my mom had just died of breast cancer. I just couldn't read it. So when in two different challenges I am a part of, had tasks that One True Thing could fit in, I felt it was time to read it. I am so glad I did. As always Quindlen's writing is like an arrow to my heart. Its compassionate and honest. It captures the complexities of our relationships with our parents. Its about love and forgiveness with a bit of mercy ...more
Lynn
Oct 12, 2016 Lynn rated it really liked it
Ellen has always been the gifted, talented, incredibly smart one in the family – an intellectual counterpart to her father, Professor and department head of English literature at the local college. And Ellen has also somewhat looked down at her mother - a woman who gave up her college dreams when she married Ellen’s father; a woman who worked tirelessly to make a good home for dad and her 3 children (Ellen and her two younger brothers). Mom’s lifestyle and life choices are so much different than ...more
Kate
Apr 28, 2010 Kate rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-in-2010
One True Thing One True Thing by Anna Quindlen



From amazon.com:

""You" says Ellen Gulden's father, as he throws her stuff out on the porch after she suggests he "hire a nurse" to take care of her dying mother, "have a Harvard education, but you have no heart."

And so starts her journey back into her family (she quits her job in the big city), back to the mother she never really identified with. So starts her learning process--about human nature...not just about books, or concepts. So starts her lea
...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Good Mother
  • Good Enough to Dream
  • A Patchwork Planet
  • Pressure Drop
  • What We Keep
  • The Crater
  • Common Carnage
  • In the Night Season: A Novel
  • Latitude Zero
  • Men in Black
  • Family Values
  • The Devil's Own Work
  • Furnace
  • Waiting
  • The Dick Gibson Show
  • The Illusionist
  • The Speed Queen
  • Sights Unseen
3500
Anna Quindlen is a novelist and journalist whose work has appeared on fiction, nonfiction, and self-help bestseller lists. She is the author of eight novels: OBJECT LESSONS, ONE TRUE THING, BLACK AND BLUE, BLESSINGS, RISE AND SHINE, EVERY LAST ONE, STILL LIFE WITH BREAD CRUMBS, and MILLER'S VALLEY. Her memoir LOTS OF CANDLES, PLENTY OF CAKE, published in 2012, was a number one New York Times bests ...more
More about Anna Quindlen...

Share This Book



“I wondered why I hadn't loved that day more, why I hadn't savored every bit of it...why I hadn't known how good it was to live so normally, so everyday. But you only know that, I suppose, after it's not normal and every day any longer.” 52 likes
“You make concessions when you're married a long time that you don't believe you'll ever make when you're beginning. You say to yourself when you're young, oh, I wouldn't tolerate this or that or the other thing, you say love is the most important thing in the world and there's only one kind of love and it makes you feel different than you feel the rest of the time, like you're all lit up. But time goes by and you've slept together a thousand nights and smelled like spit-up when babies are sick and seen your body droop and get soft. And some nights you say to yourself, it's not enough, I won't put up with another minute. And then the next morning you wake up and the kitchen smells like coffee and the children have their hair all brushed and the birds are eating out of the feeder and you look at your husband and he's not the person you used to think he was but he's your life. The house and the children and so much more of what you do is built around him and your life, too, your history. If you take him out it's like cutting his face out of all the pictures, there's a big hole and it's ugly. It would ruin everything. It's more than love, it's more important than love...

It's hard. And it's hard to understand unless you're in it. And it's hard for you to understand now because of where you are and what you're feeling. But I wanted to say it...because I won't be able to say it when I need to, when it's one of those nights and you're locking the front door because of foolishness about romance, about how things are supposed to be. You can be hard, and you can be judgmental, and with those two things alone you can make a mess of your life the likes of which you won't believe. It's so much easier...the being happy. It's so much easier, to learn to love what you have instead of yearning always for what you're missing, or what you imagine you're missing. It's so much more peaceful.”
33 likes
More quotes…