Marion W. (Issaquah, WA)
How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?
David leaves his wife, Emily, after ten years of marriage. Their long relationship had begun in high school; she'd thought it would last forever. She moves to another New Hampshire town, and takes a job teaching in the high school, but she remains raw, in shock, and shattered by the turn of events.
Set in 1969, this novel reflects the times very accurately. Popular music and TV programs, clothes (remember girdles and housedresses, anyone?), cooking (or Peg Bracken's "The I Hate to Cook Book?), everyone smoking, beer cans with pop tops that came off...all this makes for an evocative read for some, or social history for others.
But the human emotions portrayed within it are eternal, and Emily's periodic dipping into her grandmother's diary, which recounts that long-ago marriage in happier and simpler times, underlines this theme.
And what could Emily have done differently in her own marriage? Does even David know?
We like the wistful Emily, and wish that we could somehow help her find her way to at least contentment, if not happiness.
The book ends with Emily soldiering on to make a life for herself; it's just that she doesn't know what that life may be, and is waiting, waiting...
This bluesy story is offset by MacDougall's wry sense of humor and descriptive talents. It's not so much depressing as it is fatalistic. I think most of us know an Emily.
Sarah R. (Chattanooga, TN)
One Minus One
In One Minus One, MacDougall takes us back to the 1960's in the U.S.A., a time when the world reeked of cigarette smoke. Women chose ladylike brands including "Salem." Men opted for the more "manly" unfiltered brands like "Pall Malls."
At lunch and dinner, men drank Martinis or Manhattans since alcohol was a business ritual. It was also considered, the best way to relax even at home.
Women, who stayed at home, drank, too. Some even drank to the "soaps" on TV. Women, who worked in business usually drank like men.
(Nuns, priests, teachers, and nurses were the exception and seldom used smoking and drinking.)
In this world, divorced women simply did not fit in. They were outcasts without an "Oprah" or Dr Phil.
These women were "one minus one" to many even themselves.
This book lures no readers with one notable exception, young women born after 1970. These women can read and learn how a woman's place in the world has changed for the better. They can learn how a woman's value escalated and appreciate an identity without a husband, partner or boss. No cigarettes or alcohol are not required. Today's woman is blessed.
Ellen N. (Camano Island, WA)
I really wanted to love this book. Not just because Ruth Doan MacDougall's One Minus One was praised by Nancy Pearl who has recommended so many of my favorite reads, but because of the nostalgia factor. It takes place in the late 60's when I was a young woman out of college and finding my way in a first job, and it's set in New England where this transplanted west coast resident grew up. And if that's not enough, a character-driven novel is my cup of tea. What more could I ask for? A lot.
In defense of the novel's protagonist Emily Bean, Nancy tells us you don't have to like or admire a character, but you must be able to understand why they do what they do. But I want more; I have to find the character interesting, and Emily as well as her supporting cast of stereotypical roommates and lovers, fail to engage my sympathy or interest…at least until the very end of the book.
One Minus One does redeem itself somewhat at the surprise ending. Not because it's unexpected, but because it throws new light on the secondary story lines that seem insignificant until you realize that the grief experienced by her grandmother and mother at the loss of their husbands is mirrored by Emily's loss of David. And the device of Ma's diary which seemed only to record the boring details of daily life—who came to visit, what we ate, what everyone wore, are recognized as echoing Emily's memories of life with her former husband. Still, if the reader is not engaged enough to stay with the book, these discoveries are never made. Had I not been reading it for First Impressions, this reader would not have made it to the end.
Having exceeded my recommended 100-word limit, and having broken my mother's first rule of good behavior: "If you can't say anything nice, don't…," I leave you with my 3 star rating.
Barbara O. (Maryland Heights, MO)
Good story relating the emotional pain of a suddenly single young woman as she ventures into the reality of being "one". This period piece also captures New Hampshire as a background character slowly facing decline as the manufacturing plants begin their demise. The author engages the reader with a strong portrayal of confusion and yearning and the foolish decisions humans make to ease pain. A good read for book club discussions.
Viqui G. (State College, PA)
One Minus One
This novel was a slow meander through Emily's Bean's life and thoughts 1 year after her divorce from David. Throughout the novel she just can't seem to put her life with David in the past and move on with all the possibilities of the future.
There were many aspects of the novel I enjoyed: the writing was very descriptive, the character development was focused and Emily's character as well as some of the lesser characters were fully fleshed out. I really liked the honest and unapologetic description of Emily's sexuality. The biggest fault I had with this novel is that it didn't really "go" anywhere. By the end of the novel, Emily is stuck in the same state of mind that she was in when the novel started. The story arc looped back to the beginning with no development. Sadly, the reader is left with an ending which is the same as the beginning: Emily continues to mourn for her past life and her ex-husband David.
Jo B. (LA)
Nancy Pearl's rediscovery
I'm surprised that Nancy Pearl selected this book to be part of her limited edition rediscovery series. I though the book was OK but not outstanding. It takes place in New England and is about a young woman (Emily) who has been divorced from her husband. The story is about Emily having trouble moving on and finding a suitable life for herself. I usually really like these types of character driven books but this one was not my favorite.
Carol T. (Ankeny, IA)
I understand why Nancy Pearl chose this one for Book Lust Rediscoveries. Excellent plot growing from a believable character, who, while she may not react as I would, reacts in a truly reasonable manner to the forces around her. As with all truly good books, once I turned the last page, I found myself imagining how Emily's life might go on. I will look for more by Ruth Doan MacDougall. (Why haven't I run onto her before? My loss.)