Quindlen left journalism in 1995 to become a full-time novelist. In 1999, she joined Newsweek, writing a bi-weekly column until announcing her semi-retirement in the May 18, 2009 issue of the magazine. Quindlen is known as a critic of what she perceives to be the fast-paced and increasingly materialistic nature of modern American life. Much of her personal writing centers on her mother who died at the age of 40 from ovarian cancer, when Quindlen was 19 years old.
She has written five best-selling novels, three of which have been made into movies. One True Thing was made into a feature film in 1998 for which Meryl Streep received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Black and Blue and Blessings were made into television movies in 1999 and 2003 respectively.
Writing in The New Republic, critic Lee Siegel cited Quindlen as an example of the "monsters of empathy" who "self subjugate and domesticate and assimilate every distant tragedy." He coined the term "The Quindlen Effect" to describe this phenomenon and suggested that it began with her Times column of December 13, 1992, in which Quindlen assailed the four alleged perpetrators of the Glen Ridge rape. "True to her niche," Siegel wrote, "Quindlen attacked with scathing indignation actions that no sane Times reader would ever defend."