If you are looking for a sweet and sanguine novel, with in depth characters that sneak into your heart while you are not looking, take a peek at A Simple Thing. A Simple Thing rocks you gently as it spins its tale of Susannah Delaney and Betty Pavalak, two very different but caring mothers as they seek a safe sanctuary for themselves and their children. Beautifully written, great plot, and just one of those feel happy after reading I wish it lasted longer good books~!
Susannah, married to Matt, has two children, 14 year old Katie and younger Quinn. Katie seeks adventure; Quinn is fearful and scientific, loving little known facts, the names of plants, and the life of insects, like his father. When Katie ends up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning one night, and Quinn has been bullied at school one time too many, Susannah realizes that life has become overwhelming and her children are at risk. Susannah decides to take the year and travel to Sounder Island, isolated and simple. No electricity, no cell phone reception (well, occasional at best), no TV, no computers – no dangers to Katie’s out of control behavior and Quinn’s phobias. She has to leave Matt behind, but she is determined to keep her children safe. And she and Matt are solid enough for it – aren’t they?
Susannah herself carries her own demons, coming from an unsafe family, where her father drank and abused, and her mother watched with silence. When she was 13, she watched her three year old sister Annie drown in the boat her drunk father piloted, and he blamed Susannah for not holding onto the little girl when the boat crashed into an oncoming wake. Drinking, her father almost flipped the boat going way too fast for safety. Susannah takes on the guilt and vows to never let her own children suffer like she has.
Her landlord on Sounder Island is Betty Pavalak, who has lived on Sounder for 50 years. She is a widow, and has raised her own son Jim and she minds her own two grandsons, now teenagers, Hood and Baker. Jim is a teacher on the tiny island school. Betty’s lover of many years, Barefoot, a botanist, teaches Quinn about plants and the island and gives Katie a job refinishing his second boat. He teaches Katie about boundaries and lessons in responsibility and Katie actually listens. The two women, although disparate in age, become fast friends. And the island is good to Susannah and her children.
But the distance is creating havoc in Susannah’s marriage and Betty discovers that she has terminal health problems. Betty’s greatest desire is for Barefoot to die first, for she cannot imagine living without him. As Susannah learns to talk to her own mother, and to address her problems with Matt, and to forgive herself for Annie’s death, she learns the power of friendship and overcomes her tendency to control her children. She feels the peacefulness of Sounder Island as it works its magic on both women, Katie and Quinn. Hood and Baker help Katie make the transition as Betty helps Susannah.
A novel profound in its connections to marriage, children, love, parenting and forgiveness, McCleary never becomes pedantic or boring. This is a lovely novel, full of depth in its characters and the problems we all face as parents, and how we deal with teenage angst. A Simple Thing is a simple novel with a big bang. A Simple Thing swings with the tide as musical and harmonic as the ocean. A very good read.
A Simple Thing is available for purchase & taking to the beach to relax with at Amazon.com, etc.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A” – Ava
We received a copy of this title for our book review. All opinions are our own.