RANGE OF MOTION by Elizabeth Berg


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 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)

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-679-43745-2
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15th, 1995


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