One True Thing
is a film starring Meryl Streep as the cancer-stricken homemaker mother, Renee Zellweger as the daughter who quits her top-dog job to care for her, and William Hurt as the chilly professor who lets the women in the family do the heavy emotional lifting dying requires. But the real star of the project remains former New York Times
everyday-life columnist Anna Quindlen, who quit her top-dog job to write novels (and who took time off from college to nurse her own dying mother).
Quindlen hit a nerve with One True Thing, which captures an experience seldom dealt with in popular culture. (One exception: the sensitive 1996 film with Streep and Leonardo DiCaprio of the play Marvin's Room.) Though the heroine of One True Thing, Ellen Gulden, is a golden girl with two brothers who'll lose her career the instant she steps off the fast track, society concurs with her dad, who says, "It seems to me another woman is what's wanted here."
The book is a mother-daughter tale that should please fans of, say, The Joy Luck Club. It's not flashy, but it has a deep feel for the way children often discover, just before it's too late, who their parents really are. "Our parents are never people to us," Ellen writes, "they're always character traits.... There is only room in the lifeboat of your life for one, and you always choose yourself, and turn your parents into whatever it takes to keep you afloat." The mercy-killing subplot isn't gripping, but the palpable sense of deepening family intimacy certainly is. --Tim Appelo
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Quindlen (Object Lessons) again examines delicate family dynamics with this resonating tale of a matriarch's illness and the tempest of emotion that swirls around her deterioration and death. Manhattan psychiatrist Ellen Gulden recalls the dark time nearly a decade ago when she was accused of administering a fatal dosage of morphine to her mother, who was suffering with terminal cancer. Back then, intelligent, overachieving Ellen was forced by her domineering father to abandon a promising magazine career and assume the role of companion and caretaker at her family's suburban home. While tending her failing mother, Ellen discovered some harsh truths about herself, her parents and the relationships they had developed over the years. Following Kate Gulden's autopsy, circumstantial evidence-as far-reaching as a high-school essay she wrote championing euthanasia-accumulated against Ellen, and she was arrested. Now cleared of charges and estranged from her father, Ellen speculates on what really happened during the final hours of Kate's life. Quindlen's talent for weaving a believable reality from her characters' complex sentiments shines here, and her portraits are full-bodied and carefully drawn. Unfortunately, Ellen's digressions are often too broad in scope, incorporating peripheral characters and aiming to discuss several themes (i.e., friendship, sex, the cost of ambition) at once; these introspections occasionally slow the narrative, especially in the novel's second half. These stylistic points aside, Quindlen's story sustains an emotional momentum, and she addresses difficult issues with compassion.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.