One True Thing

Anna Quindlen (1994)

This Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist’s first novel is an amazing one. A woman in jail is awaiting trial for the murder of her terminally ill mother. Did Ellen end her mother’s suffering out of compassion for her pain, or did she selfishly accelerate the natural outcome of the disease so she could get on with her own life?

Ellen tells her own story, beginning with her father’s decision that she, not he or her brothers, should be her mother’s caregiver. At first she is angry at her father’s assumption that her life can be so easily interrupted and uprooted, but she quickly comes to recognize this time with her mother for what it is–a special opportunity to learn about her mother, and thereby herself, that should not be received lightly. This is a story both painful and reassuring to read, about the unbreakable thread that connects a parent to a child. It beautifully conveys how much we discover about ourselves when life puts us to the ultimate test.

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