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A Simple Thing

3.74  ·  Rating details ·  807 Ratings  ·  110 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
Paperback, 304 pages
Published July 24th 2012 by William Morrow Paperbacks
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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 01, 2012 rated it liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Kunni Biener
May 19, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Kathleen Smith
Jun 15, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Ann Mah
Sep 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it really liked it
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 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Sara Strand
Jul 19, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Holly Weiss
Jul 04, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 24, 2012 rated it it was ok
Shelves: book-club, kindle
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
Jun 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Jul 01, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Jess Pillera
Sep 10, 2012 rated it really liked it
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.
Sep 11, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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!
Natalie Daly
Jun 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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.
Sherry Edwards
Jan 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
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 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This story is about overcoming fears, and figuring out who you are, and forgiving yourself for mistakes you've made.
Jul 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
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 20, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Feb 16, 2013 rated it liked it
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
Jun 14, 2012 rated it liked it
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
Sep 07, 2012 rated it liked it
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.
Marie Mueller
Sep 22, 2013 rated it liked it
I loved reading about living without much electricity and getting back to nature. I enjoyed the supporting characters much more than the main character. I wanted to shake her. Her insecurities went on way too long.
Aug 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Loved this book! Good story & great writing. I've never been near an Island in my life but I could see it so clearly. Easy to read, great characters, made me cry at the end. Hope to see more by Ms. McCleary.
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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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“I'll tell you, it's only when I learned to accept that I was a lot like my mother the tI began to be happier. I suspect you'll find that to be true yourself. Our mothers are the most influential in making us who we are. As long as you regard your mother with distaste, it's not possible to view yourself charitably, with the kindness and seft-acceptance so essential to personal happiness." - Barefoot” 1 likes
“Don't confuse guilt and shame." she said. "It's okay to feel badly about something yo've done. But don't let it make you feel badly about who you are." - Betty, A Simple Thing” 0 likes
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