Durable Goods by Elizabeth Berg

Cover ImageFinished 3-28-09, rating 3.5/5, fiction, pub. 1993

She couldn’t do a whole sentence; it took too much air.  So she would say pieces like that.  Sometimes, even if you were loving her so much, your fists clenched and your heart feeling like it had a tight peel around it, you would get mad like that.

page 13 of the mass market paperback

Katie is a twelve year old Army brat living in Texas with her abusive father and her older sister.Her mother has recently died and Katie crawls under her bed to have conversations with her and even harbors a hope that it was all merely a misunderstanding and that one day she will walk through the front door.  Her best friend, Cherylanne, lives next door and is two years older, so Katie learns about kissing boys and sex and shaving her legs from her,  Their conversation about sex was pretty funny.

Katie is just  a girl trying to make her way in a world without a mother and a sister already halfway out the door.  She is every girl and it is easy to recognize yourself in her, of course, some things are scarier and more painful than others.  When she starts her period she thinks of it as a gift and is excited that she can now have a baby, something to call her own.  When her father tells them that they will have to move again she resists the idea because she would be moving to a place where her mother had never been.

This is a powerful coming of age story.  I read the second book about Katie, Joy School, first, and liked it better than this one.  I understand her father and her sister now that I’ve read this one, but I did not like the story as much.   I still recommend it,  as I do with anything Elizabeth Berg writes,

Joy School, by Elizabeth Berg

Cover ImageFinished 2-17-09, rating 4.5/5, fiction, pub. 1997

This is the thing about strong people: you can mostly be scared of them but sometimes the way they are makes you feel safe.

page 108, hardcover

Katie and her father have moved to Missouri from Texas just as Katie is entering the insecurity and wonder of her teen years.  Her mother is dead, her sister is pregnant, her father is distant, and she is mostly ignored at school.  She thinks maybe the only people who like her are the cafeteria ladies because they always give her seconds.  Then she meets Jimmy, the much older manager of a gas station and her luck seems to be changing.  She begins spending more time with the married Jimmy and even finds a few friends along the way.

Katie’s story covers all of the universal feelings of youth.  Loneliness, awkwardness, confusion, and fear all come together for the perfect storm we call  puberty.  I was touched by Katie and when she was uncomfortable or horrified, so was I  because the memories all came back to me.  She was heartbreak and humor at once.  She had me laughing out loud (her first experience at the drive-in was priceless) and also cringing at her optimistic view of a future with Jimmy.

I love this book.  There is something distinctive about the words Elizabeth Berg chooses and I am immediately engaged.  I recognize myself in her characters and I think you will too.  If you haven’t read her, you should!

This book stands on its own as a wonderful read, but it is a sequel to Durable Goods.  I did not know this until I was finished reading it and it really made me mad.  I think you should read this book, but I also think you should read Durable Goods first (even though I haven’t read it myself!).

Highly recommended.

Teaser Tuesday – Joy School

teasertuesdays3TEASER TUESDAYS asks you to:

  • Grab your current read.
    Let the book fall open to a random page.
    Share with us two (2) “teaser” sentences from that page, somewhere between lines 7 and 12.
    You also need to share the title of the book that you’re getting your “teaser” from … that way people can have some great book recommendations if they like the teaser you’ve given!
    Please avoid spoilers!

“They’re fourteen, and they’re twins, Greg and Marsha.  I believe they are relatives of the devil.”

Joy School by Elizabeth Berg, page 21

I’m loving this book so far!  Grab your book and leavea comment 🙂

The Handmaid and the Carpenter, by Elizabeth Berg

Cover ImageFinished listening to 12-8-08, rating 3/5, fiction, pub. 2006

This is the love story of Mary and Joseph.  We meet them as they meet each other and declare their intentions toward one other.  Mary is a brazen 13 year old girl who is visited by an angel and Joseph is an uncompromising 16 year old who lacks the faith to believe in the miracle of Mary’s Christ child.  This is their story and although it obviously includes Jesus the story ends with Joseph’s passing.

I listened to this on cd read by the author and thought it was a nice story for the season.  I think Berg took great liberties with the story, but for a short holiday read it was enjoyable.  It would be a nice gift for the sometime reader who doesn’t mind that Mary and Joseph might seem a but too human.

FREE BOOKS for September

Be the first to leave a comment and I’ll get the book to you for FREE either by mail or personally if I’ll see you soon.  They are all in good shape and have been read once or twice.

Once you’ve ‘won’ the book I can get your shipping address if I need it.  Also, you can come back and get a free book every month if you want. 

1. Ricochet by Sandra Brown (hardcover book club copy) Brown is always reliable for a fast paced thriller  for Yessenia

2. When the Bough Breaks by Jonathan Kellerman (paperback) the first of the Alex Delaware mystery series for Donstuff

3. Range of Motion by Elizabeth Berg (paperback) Berg is one of my favorites for womens fiction for bermudaonion

4. Lady Be Good by Susan Elizabeth Phillips (paperback) If you like romances you must read Phillips.  She’s one of my favorites.

Thanks for helping me make room for new books on my bookshelves.  Happy Reading!

Open House, by Elizabeth Berg

Cover ImageFinished listening to on 6-27-08, rating 3.5/5, fiction, pub. 2000

“There were just families yelling at their kids not to drown and teenagers walking around like billboards, acting as if their bodies would never change.They’re so oblivious to the fact that they’ll get older.  Sometimes I want to grab them and say, ‘Hey!  I used to look like you!  Ha-ha-HA!!'”

“Yes,” Lydia says.  “That’s what I want to say to you sometimes.”  She sips her tea.

My God.  Of course that must be true.  Of course it must!  What’s a little cellulite next to a face full of deep wrinkles?  What’s a face full of deep wrinkles next to infirmity?  When does the time come when you stand in front of your grown-up woman’s mirror and feel contentment for what you see there?  Ever?—Chapter 12

Sam is a 42 year old mother, daughter, best friend, and soon to be ex-wife.  She has never had to support herself and 12 year old son, Travis, and has decided that the best way to do this is to take in boarders at her large suburban home.  Travis is not crazy about the idea and everybody else just thinks she’s crazy.  First there’s mature Lydia, then sad Lavender, and finally fabulous Edward.

She goes on a shopping spree at Tiffany’s.  She calls Martha Stewart and Martha calls her back.  She makes new friends.  She goes on a date.  And most importantly, she stops crying.

I love the rare simplicity of Elizabeth Berg’s writing and her ability to tell a story with real depth in such a concise and readable way.  Her characters are always recognizable as someone you know or might meet someday.  This story of a woman facing life after divorce is a triumph.  I’ve read quite a few of Berg’s books and by the end I always feel as if I’ve gained some insight. This is no exception.