Two sisters meet up with their mother who they have not seen or spoken with in 35 years. As Ginny Young crosses the country for a reluctant reunion, flashbacks of her youth bring up feelings long buried, exposing raw nerves. The tension for the reader mounts, wondering about what happened so long ago and how it might affect the sisters and their mother now.
Berg is a master at capturing a young girl’s view of the world, especially in her older novels and in the Durable Goods series. She writes very honestly, recognizably, and intimately about ordinary family relationships. Over the years, I’ve read almost all of her two dozen novels, picking up one every once in awhile for a nice comfort read. She has keen insight and her novels are so readable, yet not sentimental or predictable. In my opinion, her best ones are the short story collections (especially: The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted and Open House), and in general I’ve liked her older works better than the most recent. Although they are very different writers, both Elizabeth Berg and Alice Munro write about ordinary life and relationships, but it does occur to me that I find Berg much more approachable and uplifting than Munro.
Elizabeth Berg is one of my favourite authors, but I found this one a disappointment. It’s about a group of classmates meeting at a high school reunion. It was cliché and shallow and not up to her usual standard. Books of hers which I have enjoyed are among others, Open House, Art of Mending, and We Are All Welcome Here. The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted is a hilarious collection of short stories. Her books focus on everyday life but her strength is usually in her ability to pull out and describe extraordinary moments otherwise hidden in the midst of ordinary events. I would say her books are mostly targeted for middle aged women, although the Durable Goods trilogy (Durable Goods, Joy School, True to Form) captures the adolescent girl experience very well.
So whether you are a Berg fan or not, take a pass on this one and pick up another. I know I will until I’ve read them all.
Elizabeth Berg Website
Elizabeth Berg is one of my favourite writers. Her books are comfortable and she has uncanny insight into the ordinary, making it extraordinary, and oh so recognizable. She has written about two dozen books, of which I’ve read over a dozen. I usually read one or two every year. The books are all about different topics, but two of the types of characters she captures well are middle age women, and adolescent girls. Hmmm, might be hormonal. I also heard her speak at a conference and found her to be very articulate and wise. Her website is worth a visit. It is full of warmth and fun, and she is willing to share some of her personal life with readers as well as a list of her books. (Elizabeth Berg Website)
‘We Are All Welcome Here’ is a story of a remarkable woman who was paralyzed by polio, abandoned by her husband, but was devoted to raising her daughter on her own, with help only from a daytime caretaker who was devoted to both of them. The woman gave birth to the child while she was in an iron lung! It is based on a true story.
One of her books is about a woman in love with a gay friend who can never return her love (Until the Real Thing Comes Along). She has a trilogy about a teenage girl( Durable Goods, Joy School, True to Form). There are some short story collections, one called The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted. We can all relate to that! The Handmaid and the Carpenter is a nice retelling of the story of Mary and Joseph. Pull of the Moon is a book of diary entries by a woman in mid life crisis who leaves her husband and goes on a driving trip to sort some things out. Apparently a few men have read it to better understand their menopausal wives! But in the book we never hear from the husband. Then in one of her short story collections, her husband Martin gets a chance to speak and we hear his side of the story. (‘Martin’s Letter to Nan’ in Ordinary Life) That is just a taste, I can’t really recommend one of her books over another, they are all good. Take your pick and enjoy!