'You are bending over the dryer, pulling out the still-warm sheets, and the knowledge walks up your backbone. You stare at the man you love and you are staring at nothing; he is gone before he is gone.' When Samantha Morrow's husband leaves her and her eleven-year-old son she is faced with the terrifying prospect of having to recreate her whole life. After a few faltering steps she starts to put the pieces into place. She opens her house to a series of lodgers who each in their eccentric way help her to see herself. She fends off her mother, whose idea of getting over a failed marriage is to get a pedicure and get out there dating. And she makes a friend, King, an MIT graduate turned handyman, who shows her that she has the ability to make her own future and her own happiness.
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The narrator of Elizabeth Berg's Open House calls divorce "a series of internal earthquakes ... one after the other." She ought to know. Samantha is abandoned by her husband in the opening pages of this three-handkerchief special, and the resultant tremors keep her off-balance for most of the novel. There are practical problems aplenty, of course, including a shortage of money and an 11-year-old son to raise. But Sam's sense of emotional bereavement is far worse, despite the fact that her husband had been giving her the conjugal cold shoulder for years:
I miss David so much, yes I do, I miss the presence of another person in my bed at night, even if he doesn't touch me; the reliability of someone else being there in the morning, even if they only shave and stare straight ahead into the mirror while you lean against the bathroom doorjamb with your cup of coffee, chatting hopefully.The loneliness in her "as constant and as irrefutable" as circulating blood, Sam begins to rebuild her life. She finds herself a job and takes in a couple of boarders to help meet her mortgage payments. (One of them, a depressed student named Lavender Blue, informs her that "life was nothing but one major disappointment after the other"--the sort of homily that Sam is understandably reluctant to hear these days.) She also starts dating, with disastrous results. Yet this comically grumbling heroine does manage to find love in the ruins, and by the time Open House winds down, it's hard not to believe that she's much better off. Throughout, Berg alternates her snappy and sappy registers like a real pro. And the conclusion, which most readers will be able to spot a mile off, seems just right--the light at the end of the post-matrimonial tunnel. -- Anita Urquhart Review:
'American Maeve Binchy, a modern day Jane Austen, whatever praise you heap on Elizabeth Berg, she probably deserves it.’ -- Anna Maxted
Berg shows a sparkling ability to distil complex human emotions into a few hundred pages of clear, evocative prose. -- Journal Sentinel
Berg's narrative is agile and freshly observed -- New York Times Book Review
The details and emotions in Open House are sometimes heartwrenching, sometimes hilarious. -- Chicago Sun -Times
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Book Description 2001-06-09., 2001. Book Condition: New. Arrow Books Ltd. New edition. Paperback. Book: GOOD. 254pp. . Bookseller Inventory # NF-1711622