One True Thing: A Novel by Anna Quindlen

One True Thing: A Novel

byAnna Quindlen

Paperback | August 8, 2006

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • “[Anna Quindlen] writes passionately . . . painstakingly uncovering all the intensity, suspicion and primitive love that bonds mothers and daughters.”—The Boston Globe
 
Ellen Gulden is enjoying her career as a successful magazine writer in New York City when she learns that her mother, Kate, is dying of cancer. Ellen’s father insists that she quit her job and return home to become a caregiver. A high-powered career woman, Ellen has never felt she had much in common with her mother, a homemaker and the heart of their family. Yet as Ellen begins to spend time with Kate, she discovers many surprising truths, not only about herself, but also about the woman she thought she knew so well.
 
Later, when Ellen is accused of the mercy killing of her mother, she must not only defend her own life but make a difficult choice—either accept responsibility for an act she did not commit or divulge the name of the person she believes committed a painful act of love.
 
Praise for One True Thing
 
“A triumph.”San Francisco Chronicle
 
“We leave One True Thing stimulated and challenged, more thoughtful than when we began.”Los Angeles Times
 
“Like a brush with mortality, One True Thing leaves the reader feeling grateful, wide awake, lucky to be alive.”—Michael Chabon
 
“It calls you back for another read. . . . This is a book of catharsis.”The Denver Post
 
“Fiercely compassionate and frank.”Elle

About The Author

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...
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Details & Specs

Title:One True Thing: A NovelFormat:PaperbackDimensions:320 pages, 7.97 × 5.15 × 0.62 inPublished:August 8, 2006Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0812976185

ISBN - 13:9780812976182

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Bookclub Guide

1. One True Thing begins with Ellen in jail. What do you think about the book beginning this way? Did it affect the way you read the rest of the story, knowing (to some extent) how it would end? Looking back, do you think that scene in jail ultimately adds or detracts from the mystery of the story? How?2. What was your first impression of Ellen? What did you think of her when you finished the novel? It’s clear that she changes over the course of her mother’s illness and in the wake of her death, but in what specific ways?3. Kate Gulden seems to be the archetypal “perfect mother.” Was she? How were her relationships with her sons, Jeff and Brian, different from her relationship with Ellen?4. What did you think of George Gulden at the beginning of the book? Were you surprised as you learned more about his relationship with his wife and children? How did your opinion of him change, and why?5. Ellen reflects, “No one knows what goes on inside a marriage. I read that once; the aphorism ended ‘except for the two people who are in it.’ But I suspect that even that is not the truth, that even two people married to each other for many many years may have only passing similarities in their perceptions and their expectations” (p. 106). What do you think of this statement? How does it apply to George and Kate Gulden?6. Describe Ellen’s relationship with Jonathan. Why does she remain interested in a man who does not treat her well? How does Ellen’s relationship with Jonathan compare and contrast to her relationship with her father? Were you surprised by Jonathan’s betrayal? Why do you think he turned on Ellen?7. In reference to her father, Ellen says: “He divided women into groups . . . the intellectual twins, the woman of the mind and the one of the heart . . . I had the misfortune to be designated the heartless one, my mother the mindless one. It was a disservice to us both but, on balance, I think she got the better deal” (p. 281). Discuss the meanings, and implications, of these categorizations.8. Discuss the reactions to Kate’s cancer diagnosis, and the progression of the disease, both within the Gulden family (Kate, Ellen, George, Brian and Jeff) and in their small town (the Minnies, etc). Were you surprised by any of the reactions? How and why?9. Against Ellen’s wishes, Dr. Cohn sends Nurse Teresa Guerrero to help care for Kate. How does Teresa fit in with the Gulden family? Do you agree with Ellen, when she thinks that Teresa helped her as much, if not more, than she helped Kate? How?10. When Kate died, what did you think happened? Were you surprised to learn about the morphine overdose? Before you learned the truth, did you think it was Ellen, George, or Kate who had administered the lethal dose? Did you ever think it could have been an accident?11. Mrs. Forburg, Ellen’s former English teacher, bails Ellen out of jail and lets her stay at her home during the indictment media frenzy. Why does Mrs. Forburg take such a risk?12. Were you surprised by the grand jury’s decision? If you thought Ellen would or would not be indicted, explain why. Do you think the jury’s decision was realistic?13. At the end of the novel, Ellen sees her father for the first time in eight years. About the death of her mother, she says, “Someday I will tell my father. Someday soon, I imagine, although there is great temptation to leave the man I once thought the smartest person on earth in utter ignorance” (p. 287). Do you think Ellen will tell her father what happened? Why or why not? Would you, if you were in her shoes?

Editorial Reviews

“Fiercely compassionate and frank . . . conveys a world so out of kilter and so like ours that its readers are likely to feel both exhilarated and unnerved by its accuracy.”—Elle“A masterpiece.”—Tulsa World“Provocative . . . We leave One True Thing stimulated and challenged, more thoughtful than when we began.”—Los Angeles Times“Like a brush with mortality, One True Thing leaves the reader feeling grateful, wide awake, lucky to be alive.”—Michael Chabon   “It calls you back for another read. . . . This is a book of catharsis.”—The Denver Post“A triumph.”—San Francisco Chronicle“It is simply impossible to forget.”—Alice Hoffman