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Ordinary Life: Stories

In this superb collection of short stories, Elizabeth Berg takes us into remarkable moments in the lives of women, when memories and events come together to create a sense of coherence, understanding, and change. In Ordinary Life, Mavis McPherson locks herself in the bathroom for a week, shutting out her husband and the realities of their life together and, no, she isn t contemplating a divorce. She just needs some time to think, to take stock of her life, and to arrive, finally, at a surprising conclusion. In White Dwarf and Martin s Letter to Nan, the secrets of a marriage are revealed with the sensitivity and brilliant insights about the human condition (Detroit Free Press) that have become a trademark of Berg s writing. The Charlotte Observer has said, Berg captures the way women think as well as any writer. Those qualities of wisdom and insight are everywhere present in Ordinary Life."
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About the Author

Elizabeth Berg's novels Open House, The Pull of the Moon, Range of Motion, What We Keep, Never Change, and Until the Real Thing Comes Along were bestsellers. Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year. Talk Before Sleep was an ABBY finalist and a New York Times bestseller. In 1997, Berg won the NEBA Award in fiction, and in 2000 her novel Open House was named an Oprah's Book Club selection. She lives in Chicago.


Berg's first collection of short stories takes us, as the title promises, into the ordinary daily lives of its characters. The shorter fiction form allows Berg to focus on smaller slices of life where she can explore the struggle and either loss or gain in both the routine and in its interruptions. The 14 pieces are clearly from Berg's familiar world: domestic uneasiness, illness, dependency, and self-discovery. "Martin's Letter to Nan," in fact, is the husband's response to his wife from her novel The Pull of the Moon. Laura Hicks's reading suffers from poor pacing between stories, as the title of the next tale tends to latch onto the end lines of the previous one. Also, she is more comfortable with female voices. An uneven set of lighter reading and moving glimpses that capture the essences of these mostly women's lives. Recommended for larger fiction collections.-Joyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.

"Immediate, moment-to-moment storytelling that unfolds with the naturalism and authenticity of real life." --The Boston Globe "An extraordinary short story collection that deserves our closest attention." --Detroit Free Press "Elizabeth Berg's gift as a storyteller lies most powerfully in her ability to find the extraordinary in the ordinary, the remarkable in the everyday." --The Boston Globe "Berg's...deftly drawn pictures of ordinary life can help remind us of its oft-unheeded charms." --Los Angeles Times

Focusing, in 15 short tales, on those moments in women's lives that provide opportunity for reflection, bestselling author Berg (Open House, an Oprah's Book Club selection) zeroes in on the same kind of emotional revelations she plumbs in her novels. In many cases, her characters have simply reached a point at which they need to take stock, as has 79-year-old Mavis in the title story, who decides to hole up in the bathroom for a week. Supplied with food and magazines, and keeping her baffled husband at bay, Mavis ponders the seemingly arbitrary events of her marriage, the upbringing of her children, and the recent death of her sister, wondering if there is any meaning to it all. The adult daughter in "Caretaking" remembers her childhood as she learns how to cope with her mother, afflicted with Alzheimer's disease; in "What Stays," a young daughter takes solace in memories of her mother's gentleness and love. Couples who are at a dead end in their relationships learn things about themselves in unexpected ways, such as the pair in "White Dwarf," who examine the fallout of the wife's affair while playing a word-association game. "Martin's Letter to Nan" is the husband's response to the wife who left home in Berg's novel, The Pull of the Moon. While the men and women who populate the stories typify the monolithic entities of the fabled battle of the sexes "men don't talk" is a refrain repeated more than once Berg's gentle probing of everyday events offers insight into turning points of life that may not set off fireworks but are nevertheless indelible. Affecting and sentimental, these stories could easily appear in the magazines sold at grocery checkout counters; as light commercial fiction, they should provide sustenance for Berg's fans. Agent, Lisa Bankoff. 10-city author tour. (Feb. 26) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

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