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One Minus One

Nancy Pearl's Book Lust Rediscoveries

By Ruth Doan MacDougall

One Minus One
  • Readers' rating:

  • Published in USA  Feb 2013,
    184 pages.

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There are currently 22 reader reviews for One Minus One
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Elizabeth G. (Cincinnati, OH) (05/17/13)

A View of a Time
One Minus One is a novel examining a woman's life at a very specific time in a very specific place at a very specific time in U.S. history. I couldn't help but think of the tv show Mad Men because of the author's attention to detail and the fact that it is set in the late 60s. It is strikingly first-person narrative. Everything is seen through the eyes of this woman and through the prism of her previous life. She is in a kind of awakening, trying to measure how far she can or wants to go, wondering who she really is at this point. It's not great literature, but it is an interesting novel for a look at women's lives at that time and the very sheltered lives in small towns on the upper East Coast.
Judy W. (Tucker, GA) (05/12/13)

One Minus One
Nancy Pearl, whom I greatly admire, is the presenter of this book; otherwise, I would not have completed reading One Minus One. Nancy states that there are 4 "doorways" to a work of fiction. The author chose the doorway of character. Emily is a newly divorced woman, forced to return to the classroom as a high school teacher. She is devastated by the divorce and makes many unfortunate decisions. She lets her heart (emotions), not her head (sensibility), determine her fate in this novel. The writing is exceptional, but I didn't enjoy the story. I would not recommend this title.
Susan B. (Coventry, RI) (05/02/13)

One Minus One
I was prepared to like this book, based on the previews of it. I, too, grew up in the same era as the main character, Emily and expected to be able to feel a sense of affinity for her and the time that the book represented. By the time I was half-way through the book, I began to feel bored with her. She seemed to be obsessed with her ex-husband, who had divorced her. She becomes a one- dimensional figure. Everything that happens to her revives her memories of David and what they once shared. There was really no plot; the book was mainly a character study of Emily and she was not an interesting person. I was disappointed that the book was not as exciting as I was led to expect.
Betsy R. (Gig Harbor, WA) (04/29/13)

One on One
Because I keep a list of books I have read since the 1970s, I realized that I had read this and other books by Ruth Doan MacDougall back then and loved them. And I still liked this one today. Yes it is a little dated, but that is one of the things I liked about it - the setting and time period. I found the character Emily to be sympathetic in her search for her own life after being displaced from the life she thought she would have. Her passivity is a little irritating, but as the book went on, she became more and more ready to stand up for herself. I have already ordered some other books (out of print) by this author.
Rebecca J. (Knoxville, TN) (04/18/13)

One minus one
One minus one was a beautiful character study of a girl in the 60's who is surprisingly divorced by her husband, the only partner she has ever known. I only gave the book 4 stars because it definitely is not for everyone because of the lack of plot. However, having once been a girl of the 60's, I could somewhat identify with Emily although I did find her rather whiney. I greatly enjoyed her new love interest and her roommates, both single girls in their 30's. One minus one is definitely a book where the reader wants to know what happens to the characters after the book is over.
Monica W. (Port Jefferson, NY) (04/17/13)

One Minus One
This book is not my usual fare at all, but since Nancy Pearl said it was good and she is one of my library heroes and I gave it a try.

The story is about a 30 year old woman Emily who finds herself divorced and confronting life on her own. She has to learn how to do everything alone, something with which she is not familiar. with. Like many women who created their identity based on their relationship with a man she falls into a relationship rather quickly with Warren, a radio host. Their relationship soon becomes its own predictable pattern. Emily is going to school to be a teacher because that's what her mother did and while she wanted to be a writer in the past when she was married that desire seems to have left her. Emily's thoughts often go back in time to happier time with her husband David, he may be gone, but he is present in her own mind. Over the holidays Emily gets possession of her grandmother's diaries and starts reading. Honestly her grandmother's life is more interesting than Emily's (which on some level she may realize). Somewhere along the line her relationship with Warren unravels and Emily begins a new chapter moving in her with school friends Kaykay and Grace. She also briefly acts on her attraction to Cliff who is the department head at the college. Over time Cliff wears her down and she begins yet another relationship. While out with Cliff she meets David and his pregnant wife and finally breaks down about the divorce. No matter how far she goes or who she ends up with Emily is still haunted by David. Their relationship was such a huge part of her life trying to get past it is nearly impossible.

While the story is set in 1969, it can be easy to forget unless you really pay attention to all the small details. There is something universal about the story. I think most people know someone like Emily, the girl who defines her whole existence based on her relationship with a guy and when it ends- well on to the next one. Part of me does want to shake her and say maybe there is a reason why things didn't work out. Its 1969, not 1869. You've moved on, moved out, gotten a job, now its time to take some me time and figure out what you want. In a way its not really fair to the guys she dates. They are really just rebounds and I feel bad for Cliff who has true feelings for her. Here's hoping one day Emily finally moves on!
Kate G. (City Island, NY) (04/14/13)

Trying to be a Plus One Again
First published in 1971, Ruth Doan MacDougall's novel One Minus One is the story of Emily, newly divorced from her high school sweetheart, trying to make a new life for herself, while remaining desperately in love with David her ex-husband. Even though he had an affair with a colleague, Emily is unable to muster any anger at him. This dates the novel, but it is well-written and worth reading for the nostalgia of the 60s.
Marion W. (Issaquah, WA) (04/12/13)

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.
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