Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Once Upon a Time, There Was You Is Classic Elizabeth Berg

I have long loved Elizabeth Berg's writing. In high school, I read her ode to female friendship, Talk Before Sleep. It was a touching novel, one that continues to top my favorites of all time. I haven't missed anything she's written since.

Her latest novel, Once Upon a Time, There Was You is a prime example of the kind of books Berg writes best -- genuine novels that explore relationships, flaws and all. John and Irene are a couple once married, long divorced. Because they have a child together, their lives have been endlessly intertwined, despite being not married for far longer than they were together. Although each has had other relationships, neither has ever remarried. Instead, their lives have been poured into raising their child, Sadie.

John still lives in Minnesota, where the couple met and lived together as a family. After their divorce, Irene fled to San Francisco where she lives with Sadie. John gets Sadie on holidays and for summers. Now that Sadie is eighteen and moving on to college, her parents are at a crossroads themselves. Especially Irene, whose entire life has been devoted to raising her daughter, is at a loss as to the next step for her life.

Most of the novel is fairly devoid of action-filled plot; rather, it is an intense look at relationships and emotions. However, Berg deviated from this around page 100 and almost lost me for a few dozen pages. She rights herself again, however, and pulled me back into John and Irene's lives. Berg writes characters beautifully, and this novel is no exception. Irene, John, and Sadie are all rich characters whose intricacies and problems ring true.

Once Upon a Time, There Was You examines the major changes that take place in people's lives: becoming adults, leaving for college, getting married, getting divorced, moving. Ordinary, everyday events that are life-changing when viewed on the individual level.

Elizabeth Berg is the author of more than twenty novels and several non-fiction works. She can be found on the web at her website and blog. She also has several fun recipes on her website that I may look into with more depth once this week is complete and my summer has officially started!

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