One Minus One: Book summary and reviews of One Minus One by Ruth Doan MacDougall

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
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

The year is 1969, a time of turmoil for the United States—and for thirty-year-old Emily Bean, who, following her devastating divorce, leaves her home in the New Hampshire mountains to work as a teacher in the state's coastal region.

Still in love with her ex-husband, David, Emily struggles to adjust to single life. Women's liberation and the freewheeling sixties had only been on the perimeter of her married life, so even walking into a restaurant alone makes insecure Emily self-conscious.

The men in town are quick to notice an available and attractive young woman with legs made for miniskirts. Emily falls into relationships with two men, one of whom could be her way back to the safe life that she lost.

But in this portrait of a woman on the brink of self-realization, Emily must learn whether or not she can truly recapture the past.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

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Reader Reviews

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Carol T. (Ankeny, IA)

Superb!
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.)

Betsy R. (Gig Harbor, WA)

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)

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.

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.

Barbara O. (Maryland Heights, MO)

Emotional Conflict
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.

Bess W. (Marlton, NJ)

1 - 1 = Nothing
I can't wait to read another book by Ruth Macdougall. I thoroughly enjoyed One Minus One. Having graduated college in the 60's and started my first teaching job shortly after there were many aspects of Emily's life that I could relate to, even her teacher's salary which was higher than mine!

Emily feels that she is nothing without her husband. It's difficult to forget about an important part of your life and start again. I would hope that as time goes on Emily will be able to make the emotional transition from married to single and realize that she can be whole without being married.

...16 more reader reviews

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About the Author
Ruth Doan MacDougall, whose father wrote novels and hiking books, began writing stories of her own at the age of six in her hometown of Laconia, New Hampshire. She never stopped. Today, she is the respected author of deeply felt novels about the lives of women, including The Cheerleader, her acclaimed coming-of-age bestseller about a teenage girl in the 1950s, which launched her acclaimed Snowy Series. A recipient of the New Hampshire Writers' Project's Lifetime Achievement Award, MacDougall continues to write novels and to update her late father's hiking books. She is happy to say that she is still madly in love with her husband of fifty-five years and explains that her novel One Minus One came about when she tried to imagine what her life would be like if they ever divorced. She lives in Center Sandwich, New Hampshire.
Visit her at ruthdoanmacdougall.com


About Nancy Pearl
Nancy Pearl is a librarian and lifelong reader. She regularly comments on books on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. Her books include 2003's Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment and Reason, 2005's More Book Lust: 1,000 New Reading Recommendations for Every Mood, Moment and Reason; Book Crush: For Kids and Teens: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Interest, published in 2007, and 2010's Book Lust To Go: Recommended Reading for Travelers, Vagabonds, and Dreamers. Among her many awards and honors are the 2011 Librarian of the Year Award from Library Journal; the 2011 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association; the 2010 Margaret E. Monroe Award from the Reference and Users Services Association of the American Library Association; and the 2004 Women's National Book Association Award, given to "a living American woman who …has done meritorious work in the world of books beyond the duties or responsibilities of her profession or occupation."

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