Books by Elizabeth Berg

Elizabeth Berg is the author of twelve previous novels, including the New York Times bestsellers Say When, True to Form, Never Change, and Open House. Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year, and Talk Before Sleep was shor

Released: Nov. 19, 2019

"All the bucolic pacifism of an episode of Prairie Home Companion without the seething undercurrents."
The denizens of Mason, Missouri, are at it again, dispensing just deserts with unearned optimism on the side. Read full book review >
NIGHT OF MIRACLES by Elizabeth Berg
Released: Nov. 13, 2018

"Psychological realism sacrificed on the altar of niceness."
Berg's sequel to TheStory of Arthur Truluv (2017) checks in with Arthur's friends, neighbors, and beneficiaries. Read full book review >
Released: July 25, 2017

"Aims for profound but settles for pleasant."
In a small Missouri town, a widower finds solace by reaching out to other troubled souls. Read full book review >
THE DREAM LOVER by Elizabeth Berg
Released: April 14, 2015

"A thoroughly pleasant escape, if not a particularly deep one."
Best-selling author Berg (Tapestry of Fortunes, 2013, etc.) turns her attention to the life of French writer George Sand with this vivid historical novel.Read full book review >
Released: April 9, 2013

"Berg fails to play to her strengths here."
A motivational speaker struggles to follow her own advice after a close friend dies. Read full book review >
Released: April 5, 2011

"Berg's masterful portraits and keen insight makes for a memorable read."
The prolific Berg delivers the goods in this perceptive novel about a divorced couple reunited when their daughter goes missing. Read full book review >
THE LAST TIME I SAW YOU by Elizabeth Berg
Released: April 1, 2010

"More cynical than her usual Anne Tyler-lite approach, Berg's depiction of her characters' mid-life follies and ongoing struggles with the specter of aging is at times hilarious, at times sad, but this time she steers clear of the maudlin to go for the jugular."
A 40th high-school reunion reawakens old insecurities and crushes among former geeks, jocks, wallflowers and beauty queens. Read full book review >
HOME SAFE by Elizabeth Berg
Released: May 5, 2009

"Neither insipid nor mawkish but definitely phoned-in."
Widow discovers an $850,000 crack in her nest egg in Berg's latest (The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted, 2008, etc.). Read full book review >
Released: April 22, 2008

"Tales that highlight the bright sparks in everyday experience."
A jewel-like collection of short stories from Berg (Dream When You're Feeling Blue, 2007, etc.). Read full book review >
Released: May 8, 2007

"An overwrought and monotonous depiction of life in Middle America during WWII."
A Chicago trio maintains long-distance romances with their WWII soldiers. Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 14, 2006

"Traditional, inoffensive—probably a holiday hit."
Just in time for Christmas, Berg (We Are All Welcome Here, April 2006, etc.) delivers a story about the Christ child, highlighting the romance between his young parents. Read full book review >
Released: April 11, 2006

"A feathery feel-good story about triumph over adversity—probably another hit for Berg."
A quadriplegic mother, the 1964 Summer of Freedom and a timely visit from Elvis all come to play in Berg's latest quick-read tearjerker. Read full book review >
Released: April 12, 2005

"Unhappiness, in Berg's world, isn't an option."
The prolific Berg (The Art of Mending, 2004, etc.) champions middle-aged craziness in an impossibly sunny soap opera. Read full book review >
THE ART OF MENDING by Elizabeth Berg
Released: April 13, 2004

"A less-well-developed plot than usual, but, as always, readable."
A seemingly perfect family deliberately hides unpalatable truths that come to light only decades later. Read full book review >
SAY WHEN by Elizabeth Berg
Released: June 1, 2003

"Contrived and sentimental, though Berg (True to Form, 2002, etc.) writes neatly packed and fluid prose."
Breaking up is hard to do, and breaking up with Santa almost impossible. Read full book review >
TRUE TO FORM by Elizabeth Berg
Released: June 11, 2002

"Insights that seem too easily won in a slick story that skims the surface."
Another installment in the life of preternaturally wise military brat Katie Nash (Joy School, 1997, etc.), who over a summer and fall learns about friendship and love: a story that's more well-intentioned manual of life-lessons than engaging drama of adolescent turbulence. Read full book review >
ORDINARY LIFE by Elizabeth Berg
Released: Feb. 26, 2002

"Readable and comfortably undemanding. Fans will enjoy."
Oprah's Book Clubber Berg (Open House, 2000, etc.) offers 15 stories deftly detailing those defining moments in ordinary women's lives when fresh insights help explain their discontents. Read full book review >
NEVER CHANGE by Elizabeth Berg
Released: June 1, 2001

"Berg wastes her considerable writing talent on a contrived, familiar story, and a likable but implausible protagonist. Still, who can argue with success?"
Another bedside drama from prolific bestseller Berg (Open House, 2000, etc.), again featuring her preferred plotline of a woman in emotional distress finding herself against all odds. Read full book review >
OPEN HOUSE by Elizabeth Berg
Released: July 7, 2000

"Skillfully crafted, with a fluidity and snap that will delight Berg's fans but, when all is said and done, a distressingly familiar story."
The eighth effortless novel from soft-pedaling specialist Berg (Until the Real Thing Comes Along, 1999, etc.) is an emotional slurpee/comedy featuring the newly separated mother of a near-teenaged son who finds the man of her dreams in spite of herself.Read full book review >
Released: July 1, 1999

The biological clock is ticking in this latest take on the angst and ills of contemporary women by veteran Berg (What We Keep, 1998, etc.). Patty Hansen, the 36-year-old narrator, is plucky, close to her family, and probably too kind for her own good. A real-estate agent in a coastal Massachusetts town, she's too polite to chase after clients and often spends hours with people who have no intention of buying. Her social life is on hold, too, since Ethan, her former fiancÇ and the only man she's ever loved, told her a few years back that he was gay. Patty's known Ethan since the sixth grade, when he once saved her from being beaten up. Now, she's tired of blind dates and longs to have a baby of her own. One evening, anxious about what seems an increasingly limited future, she calls Ethan and asks whether he would make her pregnant. He is surprisingly willing (he wants children, too), Patty conveniently gets pregnant that night, and both parents-to-be are equally thrilled. Ethan doesn—t want to get married, but he suggests that they move out to Minnesota for a while to see if they can live together. Once there, though, Patty—lonely, pregnant, and homesick'soon realizes that Ethan will always be drawn to men. When her mother is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, she heads back home in time for the baby (a girl)to be born. Reconciled to being a single mom, Patty makes a new life for herself. As she watches the loving way her father copes with her mother's illness, she realizes that life is what you make of it and that she has enough good things going for her, at least for the moment. Neatly affirmative solutions to trendy problems. Not Berg's best. Read full book review >
WHAT WE KEEP by Elizabeth Berg
Released: May 1, 1998

The prolific Berg's fifth novel (Joy School, 1997, etc.) pays an unremarkable visit to that overworked territory where mothers and daughters visit to blame and explain, this time in the story of a daughter on her way to meet the mother she hasn—t seen for 35 years. Berg has an easy style and good ear, which makes for agreeable storytelling, but, here, the story itself is less impressive. The trouble is that the plot fails to seem plausible or compelling, draining the emotion from what a supposedly dramatic meeting, with attendant explanatory revelations, of a mother and her two estranged daughters. The narrative is told in flashbacks younger daughter Ginny as she flies to San Francisco. There, she joins sister Sharla, who has persuaded Ginny to come along only by hinting that she's terminally ill and wants to make her peace with their mother. As for Mother, she seems a parody of a 1950s Mom: baking from scratch, dressing immaculately, even hosting a Tupperware party. Dad's also a stereotype—a well-meaning man who works hard at a boring job, but isn—t sensitive (he doesn't get it, for instance, that his wife wants to go dancing). The two girls are happy, though: They love Mom's cooking and the way she helps them create nifty projects. And yet one summer, when glamorous free spirit Jasmine, allegedly on the run from her rich but abusive husband, moves next door, their lives fall apart. Mom gets restless and decides to leave Dad and the girls to become an artist. Which she does, and isn—t forgiven until they all meet up again, realizing then just how unhappy Mom was. But why Mom had to make so extreme a gesture is never persuasively explained. An easy read, but intellectually and emotionally lite-fare, despite the suggestions of profundity ("I now believe we owe our mothers and our daughters the truth"). (Book-of-the- Month selection; author tour) Read full book review >
JOY SCHOOL by Elizabeth Berg
Released: April 1, 1997

If books were food, Berg's latest (The Pull of the Moon, 1996; Range of Motion, 1995; etc.) might be a Twinkie: the sweet tale of a precocious 13-year-old girl who falls in love with- -and loses—an older man. Katie has had some hard knocks lately: Her mother recently died; her older sister Diane has gone off (pregnant) to Mexico to marry Dickie; and Katie has had to move from Texas to Missouri, where not only does she know nobody, but the two kids across the street are incorrigibly mean. Things quickly start looking rosier, though, as Ginger, the nice young woman who housekeeps for Katie and her dad, starts thinking that dad is more than just nice—even if he hardly ever smiles, which is only because he's an Army colonel. At school, Katie befriends the glamorous Taylor Sinn (a model), who turns out to be too fast with boys (Katie hates that) and a shoplifter. Katie has better luck with wallflower Cynthia O'Connell, who's slow at the start but steadily gains in true depth—and who has a colorful Italian grandmother who's dying slowly but just loves Katie. The big test, though, is when Katie falls in love with Jimmy, the handsome, sensitive—and married—Mobile station attendant ten years her senior who gives her a change of clothes after an ice-skating accident. There's real affection between the two, but the actual love is one-sided, and when Katie at last finds this out she's demolished enough to decide ``Well, I do not need love, I am just going to be a poet.'' Good enough, but if Katie still says of Taylor's artist mother that she ``does gigantic paintings that you don't know what is,'' she may have to improve her language skills until she's at least 14. A pleasant between-meals snack of the kids-are-great genre: teary, funny, Hallmarkian wise, its true space waiting among the YAs. (Author tour) Read full book review >
THE PULL OF THE MOON by Elizabeth Berg
Released: April 1, 1996

Berg's fourth novel in four years (Range of Motion, 1995, etc.) alternates mawkish diary entries with chilly letters home by a woman who's run away to ``find herself'' after 30 or so years of marriage, in a tale that seems better suited to the 1970s than the 1990s. Fifty-year-old Nan, who's never worked, writes daily bulletins to excoriated husband Martin from the road, letting him know obliquely why she left by sharing secrets, including the fact that she feels continually diminished by his habitual lack of attention to what she says; that she's been going through a rough menopause, ``acutely missing my periods,'' and feeling like ``some old gal;'' that she fears the dark and hates that about herself; and that she wishes she and Martin could go live in a much smaller house by the ocean, with ``golden-colored wooden stairs and a small fieldstone fireplace,'' urging Martin to call an architect and have plans drawn up for such a house when she returns home. Talk about mixed messages. In her italicized diary entries, she remembers her past (pre-Martin boyfriends from the 1960s, the ways in which she tried to raise her now-grown daughter, Ruthie, ``to be different from me'') and chronicles her encounters with other loners (a teen-aged boy in an Ohio mall who wants to sleep with her; a humiliated wife in an Iowa garden-supply store; a bereaved young husband in a Minnesota motor park). She faces her fears (sleeps outside in the moonless dark, confronts her sexuality alone in a motel room one night) and gradually begins to miss Martin. So, finally, she heads back home to Boston, scripting her reunion with Martin in letters that contain not a shadow of a doubt that he wants her back. The culture doesn't want her back—she's idle, self-absorbed, and dull in ways we haven't encountered for 20 years. An uninspiring concoction. Read full book review >
RANGE OF MOTION by Elizabeth Berg
Released: Sept. 1, 1995

Berg could be creating a new genrethe bedside vigil novelwith last year's Talk Before Sleep and this latest, a sometimes poignant but squarely predictable story of a young wife waiting for her husband to wake from a coma. Thirty-five-year-old Jay Berman was hit on the head by a chunk of falling ice and has been unconscious for months. Now, in a nursing home and given a pessimistic prognosis by his doctors, Jay is faithfully attended by his loving wife, Lainey, who never abandons hope. She talks to him, brings spices from her kitchen to wave under his nose, does anything in her power to jolt him back into the world. Meanwhile, Lainey is feeling the stress of caring for her husband while still trying to carry on as the mother of two young daughters. In her low moments, she's helped out by occasional visits from a benign ghost and also by the very real presence of her neighbor and best friend, Alice, whose domestic woes provide ironic counterpoint to Lainey's situationAlice's husband may be walking and talking, but her marriage is comatose. Berg is especially wonderful at depicting the small revealing moments of women's friendships, the offhand sharing of secrets in the grocery store. She also sets up fine, convincing scenes of day-to-day drama in the nursing home. Still, something goes slack at the end. Like Lainey, we've never really doubted that Jay would wake up one day. But when that day comes, it's an anticlimaxnot as affecting as it should be. And Jay, who loomed so large for us in sleep, seems less real and compelling when conscious, diminished by his own happy ending. Comas can be soap-opera stuff, and though Berg is much better than that, there's still a formula finish here: Waking up is hard to do. (Author tour) Read full book review >
TALK BEFORE SLEEP by Elizabeth Berg
Released: May 1, 1994

Berg (Durable Goods, 1993) offers a sappy tale about a woman witnessing the death of her friend from breast cancer. Ruth is a 43-year-old artist whose cancer metastasizes to her brain, her lungs, her kidneys, so that it's only a matter of time, ``weeks to months, depending on what `fails' first.'' Ruth has around-the-clock surveillance from a group of close women friends, the most important of whom is her best friend, Ann. Ann has virtually abandoned her family to share these remaining days with the only person she has ever really been able to get close to, and during this vigil she recounts their history. It turns out that Ann's life looks much like Ruth's when they first meet. Both are married, both have a child, both are unhappy, both want out. But it is Ruth who gathers the courage to leave her cold and unsympathetic husband, get her own apartment, and make a fresh start. And Ann envies her until she stays over at her place one night, discovers a perfectly ordered underwear drawer, and decides that it is ``not an obsessive kind of neatness, but loneliness,'' and goes home. This conclusion seems based on fear—because Ann can't yet make that same leap. But when Ruth, on the next page, reveals that she wants to go back to her horrible husband, the weakness of these women, in a book that purports to be about women offering each other strength, proves too unbelievable. Ultimately, Ruth does die, and when Ann returns to a husband who has the compassion to ask things like ``do you have any idea how long this might take?'' as Ruth gasps for breath in the other room, we're left wondering why Ruth bothers to say ``don't wait anymore...seize the moment.'' Sentimental, disappointing. All talk. (Author tour) Read full book review >
DURABLE GOODS by Elizabeth Berg
Released: May 1, 1993

A bittersweet slip of a debut novel about an Army brat named Katie, skating toward adolescence on a base in Texas in the early Sixties. In the aftermath of her mother's death, Katie's home becomes a hostile environment, even though her rebellious older sister, Diane, generally takes the worst blows from their physically abusive father. Under her bed while the battles rage, Katie entreats God not only to send her mother back, but for breasts and a period. Indeed, her yearning to join the secret sisterhood of women is ever on her mind, particularly when she hears Diane sneaking back into the house late at night after trysts with her boyfriend, Dickie Mac (who has a truck and a new litter of puppies!). Meanwhile, next door, Katie's sometimes best friend, Cherylanne, instructs her in the application of eye shadows and lipsticks with names like ``Barely There.'' Things might just go on as they are—because Katie's clearly a survivor made in the mold of Frankie in Member of the Wedding—but then her father announces that they must move yet again, causing Diane to run away with Dickie and taking Katie along. In the end, Katie returns alone: home is better than sleeping on motel room floors, and she suddenly finds herself sorry for her dad. Hope and sorrow mingle at the close of this finely observed, compassionate book. More from Berg will definitely be welcome. Read full book review >