Last week I went to a reading/book signing for Elizabeth Berg and her latest book Once Upon a Time There Was You. I've been to at least half a dozen of her readings over the years - she's one of my favorites and she's a delightful and funny presenter.
My favorite book of hers is Durable Goods, her first. Also loved Talk Before Sleep and Random Motion. I highly recommend her work, but those in particular.
Once Upon a Time There Was You was not one that immediately engaged me but by the end I loved it. But here's an odd thing, there's a funky scene in the beginning where two friends, Irene and Valerie who I think are 57, are discussing their bodies. Irene says to Valerie that they should undress
so they can compare. After some (obvious) resistance and discussion Valerie strips down to her underwear.
"Now you," she says as she puts her clothes back on. So Irene strips down completely and as she's standing stark naked in her kitchen her 18 year-old daughter walks back in the house, into the kitchen, having forgotten her cell phone. Oh my.
First of all I can't imagine two women doing that but then I thought there was going to be a story line about the daughter thinking the mother was gay (there wasn't and she's not) but actually it's explained away to the daughter and only mentioned later, briefly, when the daughter's thinking how odd her mother is. Funky, right? And pointless, really. If I'd been Elizabeth's editor I'd have asked her to take that out.
Anyway...it turns out (SPOILER ALERT) the daughter gets abducted and the story is about how the family (mother and ex-husband and daughter) deals with it. Lots of poignant stuff about dealing with trauma and fear and family dynamics and finding a new relationship with your ex. Berg is excellent at character development.
The subject matter is tough and the chapter where Sadie is abducted is horrifying. I almost decided not to read the rest of the book for fear of what was going to happen, which would have been so unlike Elizabeth Berg. But I kept going and (ANOTHER SPOILER ALERT) although what happens to Sadie is horrendous, ultimately she is not physically harmed. I don't mind spoiling that part of the story because I think people might not read it for that.
Anyway, here's the best part of Elizabeth Berg's reading - a lovely luncheon at the University Club - (other than the great people I met there: Claudia, Gig, and two other lovely ladies whose names I don't remember - sorry!): when she was signing my book I gave her a copy of mine and briefly told her how I self-published and now have a book deal with St. Martin's Press. I said, "I know it's unlikely you'll have time to read it but if you do, and you like it, and if you'd be so kind as to write a blurb for the new book I'd be very grateful!"
I know chances are slim but she was very gracious. It doesn't hurt to ask, right? And how wonderful would it be to have her name on my new book jacket?