Title: A Simple Thing
Author: Kathleen McCleary
Release Date: July 24, 2012
Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Susannah Delaney has always romanticized the idea of leaving everything behind and starting a new life on Sounder Island. No electricity, no modern problems, just you and a beautiful island. So when Susannah’s teenage daughter, Katie, begins acting out and rebelling, she decides it’s time for a fresh start. Leaving her husband behind, Susannah moves Katie and her son Quinn to Sounder. But Susannah gets more than she bargained for on Sounder Island, and her fresh start might not have the results she hoped for.
A Simple Thing is a novel that has many facets and a simple and clear main truth: it’s important to forgive and to let go. Susannah’s been haunted by a tragedy in her past for years. She blames herself for what happened, and as a result, she holds onto her children as tightly as possible. When Katie starts drinking alcohol and misbehaving, Susannah panics. Unable to control her daughter, she instead uproots her from what she knows and brings her to an entirely foreign place.
Often, teenagers in novels are portrayed as one-dimensional and just plain difficult, but that’s not the case with Katie in A Simple Thing. Don’t get me wrong, she’s frustrating, and the reader will want to shake some sense into her. But they’ll also sympathize with her when she gets angry with her mother for being selfish. Sounder was Susannah’s dream, not Katie’s. It’s clear that Susannah didn’t consider the difficulties her family would have to face upon moving to an island with no electricity, cut off from the outside world.
Indeed, Susannah doesn’t often think about consequences. She acts in a blind panic, on impulse, rather than thinking things through. She isn’t perfect; in fact, she can be just as frustrating and difficult as her teenage daughter, if not moreso, considering she’s not an adolescent. But as Susannah gets to know Betty, a fellow islander with her own troubles in her past, she loosens up and begins to reevaluate her life. This is a character driven novel, and McCleary does a wonderful job making her characters three-dimensional. They aren’t perfect, but they’re very realistic.
There are other aspects of A Simple Thing I haven’t touched upon in this review - Susannah’s difficulties with her husband, Betty’s story, told in flashbacks interspersed through the novel, and more - but I wanted to comment on the aspect that spoke most to me, which was the characters. McCleary’s novel has a lot going on in it (though it never feels crammed or jumbled), but it’s still an easy, enjoyable read. Book clubs should definitely consider this book, as it has a lot of issues jam-packed into its small package.
Other books by Kathleen McCleary: