Saturday, November 14, 2009

Home Safe by Elizabeth Berg

Genre: General Fiction
Copyright: September 2009
Pages: 260
Book Source: Library borrow

Elizabeth Berg weaves a beautifully written and richly resonant story of a mother and daughter in emotional transit. Helen Ames–recently widowed, coping with grief, unable to do the work that has always sustained her–is beginning to depend too much on her twenty-seven-year-old daughter, Tessa, meddling in her life and offering unsolicited advice. Then Helen is shocked to discover that her mild-mannered and seemingly loyal husband was apparently leading a double life. When a phone call from a stranger sets Helen on a surprising path of discovery, both mother and daughter reassess what they thought they knew about each other, themselves, and what really makes a home and a family.

This was my first Elizabeth Berg novel and while I enjoyed much of it, I can't say I was captivated. I'd heard such good things about the author's work, that I can only assume Home Safe wasn't her best?

When Helen's husband suddenly dies, the 59 year old writer finds herself ill-equipped to cope with day-to-day life; she has been completely dependent on Dan for everything from paying bills to changing a lightbulb and her writing has ground to a halt while she deals with her grief. Helen's relationship with her daughter Tessa is not one I can identify with but it was nice to see the growth and change in both these characters by the end of the novel. The character I  liked the most was actually Helen's best friend Midge, her insight and honesty with Helen was a refreshing and necessary inclusion, providing some comic relief.

When Helen takes a job teaching a writing class to a diverse group of people, her sense of helplessness begins to subside (making her a little more likeable) and via her students the reader experiences the interesting stories within this story. This is actually the part of the book I enjoyed the most. My observations here may seem a little harsh, I certainly understand grief on a personal level and how incapacitating it can be, but when the 'successful writer' calls police for a leak in her ceiling, empathy for the character dissolved along with plausability.

This was certainly a quick, easy read and I'm not adverse to trying another book by this author, any suggestions? There were some lovely quotes about books, like this one "Books don't take time away from us, ... they give it back" and a particularly beautiful paragraph that will stay with me. I might leave you with it:

She sits down and puts her hand to her chest and rocks. Thinks of all she has lost and will lose. All she has had and will have. It seems to her that life is like gathering berries into an apron with a hole. Why do we keep on? Because the berries are beautiful, and we must eat to survive. We catch what we can. We walk past what we lose for the promise of more, just ahead.

Visit Elizabeth Berg's website to find out more about the author and her work.

This month on The Eclectic Reader one lucky reader can win The Running Vixen OR Shadowland OR Captive of Sin. Check this blog post for details. International entrants welcome.


  1. Great to see you got another review done. Sorry that you didn't enjoy it as much as you hoped.

  2. Hm the name sounds familiar, too bad it wasn't marvelous though

  3. I've been debating reading some of Elizabeth Berg's stuff. I always see such mixed reviews so I am torn!

    Well-Read Reviews

  4. don't give up on her Joy School, Home Safe, Year of Pleasure...these are all wonderful..I promise :)

  5. I'm a fan of Berg's earlier stuff...haven't tried this one yet. My favorite is Joy School. Perhaps this one will suit you better :)

  6. sorry you didn't enjoy it as much as you hoped.

  7. Hi Teddyree, first off, I don't know if I've said or not, but I love the look of your blog, especially the header! Very nice.

    As far as Elizabeth Berg, I've only read Open House and it was alright, not too extraordinary. Sometimes I zone out on some of the contemporary women authors like her because the story lines seem to be very similar. I would recommend Anne Tyler or Anita Shreve. They seem a little meatier, if that's what you like.

  8. I haven't read this one, but Talk Before Sleep is excellent! Just make sure you have a brand new box of Kleenex, because it's a sobber.


  9. Read OPEN HOUSE. The book stayed with me for days. It's a love story, not romance and it was beyond touching.

  10. This looks really good ... I have thoroughly enjoyed several of Berg's books.

  11. I enjoyed Open House too, I think it's the only one I've read by her. I saw this at the library last week but I already had enough to read so I skipped it. Maybe I'll pick it up next time. Thanks for the review.

  12. I thought I had read her but just checked to see all that she has written and I won Open House (I think it is at our cabin) but I have not read it yet.

    I have heard good things about her too.

  13. I LOVE the last quote.. wow!and tat book quote is wonderful!
    I will surely give this author a try... well looking forward to you finding a better book by her... so that i can read that ;)!

  14. I haven't read all of her books, but my favorite Berg novel so far is Pull of the Moon followed by Joy School. For me, I can recognize myself in her characters and the writing is so clean. I think you should at least try one more before you write her off :)

  15. I've seen such mixed reviews on this one that I haven't picked it up yet. I may not. I've read a few by her and liked them. One of my favorites is Talk Before Sleep.


Thanks for taking the time to leave some comment love, I'm a 'comment back' kinda girl. Don't forget to check the 'Notify me' box