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One True Thing

3.98 of 5 stars 3.98  ·  rating details  ·  26,816 ratings  ·  859 reviews
Ellen Gulden leaves her life as a successful New York journalist, to return home and care for her mother Kate diagnosed with cancer. for her. 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 dev ...more
Kindle Edition, 315 pages
Published September 1st 2010 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 1994)
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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
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
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 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
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
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
D. VonThaer
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
Jennine Jones
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
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
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
C. McKenzie
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
Joan Winnek
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.

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.
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is the best, the most carefully written, of all Quindlen's books I've read so far.
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
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. :)
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.
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.
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.
Michael Armijo
My mother passed away (not from cancer), but from heart failure due to a condition called Mitral Regurgitation. All she really needed was a valve replacement but it was too late. My mom's death was very sudden & unexpected on January 24, 2000. In any case, my mother told me she loved this book. I had to read it...especially after she passed away. The story is a sad one about a mother who is dying of cancer with a bit of a twist about 'who killed her'! It taught me that time is precious and t ...more
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
The Book One True Thing is a story based on a mother – daughter relationship. The Gulden family consisted of George, Brain, Jeff, Kate, and Ellen. Ellen Gulden had a life of her own in the big apple. Until she receives the terrible news that her mother, Kate, was diagnose with ovarian cancer. As for her father, George, was emotionally unavailable forcing Ellen to care for her mother. She is given the opportunity to truly know her mother. While she cares for Kate, Ellen realizes that the image s ...more
Gina Lynette
I decided to read this book very quickly as I tend to take on the mood of the books I read and I didn't want this story to color my days for very long. I love Quindlen's prose and further enjoy explorations of family dynamics--especially mother-daughter and daughter-father relationships--so it was a must read on my list.

In spite of my attempt to gloss through it, this book managed to sink deeply. It is a gorgeously crafted--if a bit didactic--story. Quindlen is a wordsmith of the first order whe
Emi Bevacqua
This story, this family is going to stick in my head for a long time. Ellen Gulden is a successful 24yr old cut-throat up-and-coming magazine writer in NYC, when she goes home to see her two younger brothers and parents in their sleepy small town home for the holidays. The pompous, philandering English professor father tells the kids their mom has cancer, and he demands that Ellen quit her job and move home to be caretaker. All her life Ellen thought she took after her father, definitely sided w ...more
I've never really wanted to read this book, mainly because I thought the trailer for the movie looked so incredibly stupid. I know, I know. I'm not even really sure where the recommendation to read it came from this time; I think it showed up in the "new ebooks" section on my library's website a couple of months ago and I slapped a request on it without really thinking, so when I got the notice that it was available I went ahead and checked it out. And I loved it. It reminded me of the women's f ...more
Lame book review from BookCrossing, part the first:
Wow, I cried a lot in this book!

When a book has been made into a movie, I never prefer having the picture on the cover. Nevertheless, I still read this book :) The problem was, though, that I kept picturing the actors on the cover as the characters in the book, which bugged me. However, if you had to picture actors as the characters you were reading, the mom, dad and Ellen were not a problem as portrayed (there's only one son pictured on the cov
Perhaps it was the story line of a daughter leaving her high flying NYC life behind to take care of her dying mother back in her home town, or the shallow and cowardly boyfriend who ditches her for doing so, or her professor father’s philandering while his wife of countless years keeps the home fires burning while her own candle grows dim, but I just found the whole thing totally depressing. It also lacked credibility which surprised me from Anna Quindlen. Maybe things have changed since the mid ...more

Besides the difficult story line of a daughter taking care of her mother through final months of cancer, I was really moved by the relationship that was forged between mother and daughter during this time period.

I think Quindlen did a beautiful job of describing the struggle that many women endure (smart vs. sweet) and how we have trouble understanding one another. Women don't have to be either or. Sometimes, you can be strong enough to be both.

We can also learn to love and appreciate our... (sh
One True Thing One True Thing by Anna Quindlen


""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
Nancy Rossman
Well executed, complex story about a family dynamic. The flushed out personalities of the father, mother, and three children. All so different, and yet how hopelessly wrong they are about each other. It reminds me that most of us consider our own family dysfunctional, no matter how bland the "real" issues may be.

The technique to invite the reader into the family by starting with Ellen in jail, and then going back to learn how she got there was unusual but effective. It is only after getting pas
It's taken a long time to read this relatively short book (just over 300 pages). It's a very difficult story to read emotionally, but it's also beautifully written and the words just flow from the page.

The stark, honest and at times brutal description of Kate's battle with cancer, and Ellen's battle with her reactions to her Mother's disease is heart-breakingly painful to read. Any woman who is, or has been, very close to their own Mother will find it difficult to stop themselves from putting E
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Anna Quindlen is an American journalist and opinion columnist whose New York Times column, Public and Private, won the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary in 1992.

She began her journalism career in 1974 as a reporter with The New York Post. Between 1977 and 1994 she held several posts at the New York Times. She left journalism in 1995 to become a full-time novelist. She currently writes a bi-weekly colu
More about Anna Quindlen...
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“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.” 48 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.”
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