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What We Keep What We Keep


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Berg (Joy School, LJ 12/96) excels at writing novels about the close personal relationships between women. As this new work opens, Ginny is flying to California to join her sister in a meeting with their mother, whom neither daughter has seen for 35 years. Ginny uses her travel time to reflect upon her memories of the summer when her mother withdrew from the family and became an outsider in her daughters' lives. Berg's precise, evocative descriptions create vivid images of Ginny's physical world, while Berg's understanding and perception are an eloquent testimony to Ginny's emotional turmoil. Berg cleverly examines the roles and relationships of mothers and daughters and reveals how truth, forgiveness, and understanding are possible in healing intergenerational rifts between women. Highly recommended and sure to be popular. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/98.]‘Caroline M. Hallsworth, Cambrian Coll., Ontario

"I don't like my mother. She's not a good person." So declares Ginny Young on a trip to California to visit her mother, Marion, whom she hasn't seen in 35 years. Ginny is only making the trip as a favor to her sister, Sharla, who has called to say she's awaiting the results of a cancer test. In flashback, Berg (Talk Before Sleep) revisits the events of the girls' childhood and the moments when their mother's problems began to reveal themselves. One night, Ginny and Sharla overhear their mother screaming at their father about her unhappiness and telling him that she never wanted children. Then she walks out with no explanations, returning briefly a few months later to explain that she's not coming back. The following years bring occasional visits that are impossibly painful for all concerned and so full of buried anger that the girls decide to curtail them altogether. When Sharla meets Ginny (now a mother herself) at the airport, and the two see their mother again, there are surprises in store, but not especially shocking ones. The reader, in fact, may feel there is less here than meets the eye: Marion's flight is never made psychologically credible. Berg's customary skill in rendering domestic details is intact, but the story seems stitched together. Crucial scenes feel highlighted rather than fleshed out, and Ginny's bitterness disappears into thin air as she reaches a facile, sentimental conclusion about her mother's needs. BOMC selection; author tour. (May)

"A HEARTRENDING TALE BOTH WISE AND WORTHY . . .Berg keeps a tight grip on readers as she takes us back and forth from a 12-year-old's perspective to the memories and secrets revealed at the reunion- 35 years later-of three sophisticated, mature women. By its finish, the story has taken your breath away with its twists and turns; it delivers an impact that stays with you well past the ending."
"-Rocky Mountain News
"In her earlier novel, "Talk Before Sleep," Berg was able to draw together remarkable humor and incredible pain with enormous insight into their intricate relationship. She does so again in "What We Keep,""
"-The Seattle Times
"Fans of Elizabeth Berg are familiar with her extraordinary talent for description-you can almost taste, feel, and hear her novels with amazing intensity. . . . The poignant twists of rejection and eventual redemption will pull you along at full throttle, making you happy you stayed for the tear-jerking, life-affirming finale."
"-Detroit Free Press

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