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Never Change
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Oprah author Berg (her Open House was a 2000 Book Club selection) turns in another sweet, unprepossessing and reassuringly predictable novel whose characters experience loneliness, loss and healing. "Odd-shaped," and with an "unfortunate" face, Myra Lipinski has been lonely all her life; she trained as a nurse "because I knew it would be a way for people to love me." Now 51, she lives alone with her dog and works as a visiting nurse in Boston, caring for an array of eccentrics that includes the feuding Schwartz couple, the feisty DeWitt Washington and the anxious teenage mother Grace. Resigned to spinsterhood, Myra is secretly thrilled when her agency assigns her to care for a former crush, Chip Reardon, who has returned to his parents' home with end-stage brain cancer. In high school, Chip was a golden boy, athletic and clever, out of ugly duckling Myra's league. Now, though, he and Myra strike up a friendship based on their mutual loneliness and on Chip's resistance to his parents, who want him to pursue aggressive treatment for his cancer. Chip prefers to die peacefully, a decision that only Myra seems to understand. Chip and Myra become inseparable: he tags along on her patient visits and eventually moves into her house, where their budding friendship takes a romantic turn. On the brink of death, Chip helps Myra to realize that her isolation is as much self-induced as fated; throughout their lives, both he and Myra have shied away from human closeness. In an inspiring, well-deserved denouement, Chip's inevitable death forces Myra to embrace the world in all its bittersweet complexity. Berg's fans will be grateful for the same gift: a novel that serves as a gentle, if unambitious, reminder to "only connect." 10-city author tour. (June) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Berg seems to have bounced back. Her previous novel, Until the Real Thing Comes Along (LJ 5/15/99), was a fun read, but there was no substance beneath the diversion. With Never Change, Berg gets closer to the power and depth of her early novel Talk Before Sleep (LJ 3/15/94). Fifty-one-year-old Myra Lipinsky is the classic "old maid": she has always considered herself unattractive and wallows in self-pity over her lack of a husband or children. Myra's job as a home-care nurse, which she loves, brings her into contact with many different people and gives her a sense of strength and importance. When Myra's high school crush Chip Reardon is assigned as her new patient, she longs for him as she did years ago. Chip is dying from a brain tumor and has chosen not to seek further treatment, letting nature take its course. Chip and Myra become lovers at a crucial time in both of their lives the end, for him, and a new beginning for her. Recommended for public libraries. Beth Gibbs, Davidson, NC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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