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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.
Sarah R. (Chattanooga, TN)
One Minus One
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.
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."
Barbara O. (Maryland Heights, MO)
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.
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.
Jo B. (LA)
Nancy Pearl's rediscovery
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.
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.)
Teresa R. (Evansville, IN)
I am just not a fan of Ms. Pearls favorite doorway to fiction- character. The story was short, lacked depth, and seemed very superficial. The characters aren't developed enough for me to even decide if I like them! Luckily, the book is more like a short story!
Martha L. (Warner, NH)
mundane and plodding
One Minus One by Ruth Doan MacDougall is a book that was originally published in 1971 and has recently been republished by Book Lust Rediscoveries. The main character, Emily Bean is recently divorced and out on her own. She has been hired as a teacher for the first time and is struggling to find her way. The conflict within the book is internal within Emily. The action is minimal and the pace slow and reflective. Her pathway to a new start is cluttered with memories and distress at moving on in her life. To me, she is so deeply mired within the past, that I am unsure if she will ever be free of it. The book is broken into three sections each descriptive of current events/relationships within her life and part of her first school year.
Ruth Doan MacDougall is from New Hampshire as clearly evidenced in this novel. Despite the changing of names, to me many places are clear as to their location. There is a particular pleasure in knowing the places in a work of fiction. Especially, when they are shown in a clear light. (personally I think I waitress at the Pizza Hut on the Miracle Mile, but not during the time of the novel.)
This book was a meandering journey through the internal and external life of Emily Bean. I felt mired down in the depressive nature of the characters with their constant drinking and their nature, like they were just taking up space and following a path set before them. I felt like they were all trying to fill an ideal, but they were unhappy with the ideal. While I completely read the book and did not feel the need to stop reading or become disgusted with the book, I did want the character to move on. I was not bored, but not fascinated either.
I won this book from Bookbrowse and am expected to publish a review. I was generous in my rating of the book. I would have given the novel a 2 . It was well written and did not bore, but neither did it go anywhere or resolve itself.