I was contacted by TLC Book Tours to host a virtual tour stop for author Kathleen McCleary and her new novel, A Simple Thingin exchange for a copy of the book. Since I love to read, and so many of you do as well, I agreed. So without further ado, here we go!
I could give you the standard blurb on the back of the book but I generally skim over those when people post them on their blogs so instead, I’m going to jump right in and tell you what the book’s about, what I liked, what I didn’t, and wrap up with how you can find out more about the book or Kathleen.
The novel pivots around two women– Susannah and Betty. Susannah is in her forties, and is married to a geologist named Matt with whom she has two children. Quinn is your typical nerdy outcast in sixth grade and Katie is your typical rude wild child in eighth grade. Betty is in her late seventies, early eighties, is a widow, and has a son named Jim who has a wife named Fiona with whom he has two eighth grade twin boys– Hood and Baker.
Their lives are brought together when Katie gets herself involved with the wrong guy and does something pretty stupid. On top of that, Quinn is being incessantly bullied and Susannah is dealing with some personal demons stemming from her own early teen years. Her solution to fixing everything? Packing the kids and herself up and moving to Sounder Island– a tiny little island off the coast of Washington. It has no telephones, no electricity, and limited plumbing. Cell phone, internet and television connections vary according to the weather. In other words, they go off the grid while her husband stays behind working his new job.
And so the story is about their time on Sounder Island and the personal development they go through with Betty (Susannah’s landlord on Sounder) and her clan acting as a foil to Susannah.
I really enjoyed this book. It’s perfect summer reading as it’s easy and interesting enough to keep the pages briskly turning. It’s also pretty short which I appreciate. I thought many of the characters were fleshed out really well. Funny enough, the character I identified the most with was the problematic Katie. Another fantastic character, and my second favorite, was a Sounder Island long time resident named Barefoot.
It’s not that I didn’t like the main characters, I did, but McCleary does a good job of fleshing out some of the minor characters as well. Betty’s story is pretty fascinating and complex and works beautifully as a foil for Susannah who took some time for me to warm up to her. Unfortunately, not all supporting characters get the four-star treatment Katie and Barefoot did. Quinn remains pretty one-dimensional, Susannah’s husband remains an enigma to me, and one of the twins seems entirely unnecessary and forgotten.
This is definitely a character-driven book so if you’re more into things like the challenges of facing your fears, love in unconventional forms, mother-daughter relationships, and making peace with your demons rather than the practical complexities of living off the grid, I’d highly recommend this book. The challenges of living off the grid become one of McCleary’s not very fleshed out supporting characters if that makes sense. It presents itself strongly right in the beginning and then pretty much fades into the background making occasional cameos here and there.
For me, that’s just fine. I’d much rather dwell on the WHY than the HOW anyways.
The study of mother-daughter relationships is interesting. It’s pretty much non-existent in Betty’s case but it is nicely examined in Susannah’s story. There was even a passage I read aloud to Teenager who is the same age as Katie and having issues with her feelings towards her mother. Is that a standard thing for Teen Daughters to go through? If so, I’m glad I will only have to experience it once, that’s for sure.
The book is sentimental and if you time it just right hormonally, you’re sure to whimper a few tears here and there (guess how I know). I think this is a great one for book clubs or just groups of friends to share. It’s definitely a nice read– a good escape if you will.
If you’d like to find out more about the author, Kathleen McCleary, I’ve got some great news for you. She will be discussing the novel, A Simple Thing, on Book Club Girl August 21st at 7:00 PM EST. That means you have enough time to get a hold of the book, read it, and ask her some great questions. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.
Hope you enjoyed my two cents on this one. What are you reading now?