Thursday, October 25, 2012

Review: Once Upon a Time, There Was You by Elizabeth Berg

Once Upon a Time, There Was You by Elizabeth Berg
Random House
March 2011
Format: Hardcover, 280 pages

First line: When John Marsh was a young boy, he used to watch his mother getting ready to go out for the evening.

From the inside cover: From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of Home Safe and The Last Time I Saw You comes a beautiful and moving novel about a man and woman, long divorced, who rediscover the power of love and family in the midst of an unthinkable crisis. 

Even on their wedding day, John and Irene sensed that they were about to make a mistake. Years later, divorced, dating other people, and living in different parts of the country, they seem to have nothing in common—nothing except the most important person in each of their lives: Sadie, their spirited eighteen-year-old  daughter. Feeling smothered by Irene and distanced from John, Sadie is growing more and more attached to her new boyfriend, Ron.

When tragedy strikes, Irene and John come together to support the daughter they love so dearly. What takes longer is to remember how they really feel about each other.

Elizabeth Berg has once again created characters who embody the many shades of the human spirit. Reading Berg’s fiction allows us to reflect on our deepest emotions, and her gifts as a writer make Once Upon a Time, There Was You a wonderful novel about the power of love, the unshakeable bonds of family, and the beauty of second chances.

My thoughts:  Shortly after this book came out, Elizabeth Berg came to the local independent book store near me and I went to see her. She is a lovely woman and to start out the evening, she read from the prologue of the book. I absolutely love listening to authors read their own work - their love and passion of their craft really comes out. Unfortunately, I only got around to reading this now - a year and a half after seeing her, and I have to say I was left wanting more.

One of the things I love most about Elizabeth Berg's works is her ability to give us in-depth character sketches. Her books are more character driven than they are plot driven. In Once Upon a Time, There Was You, we meet Irene, John and Sadie. Irene and John are divorced and trying to move on with their lives. Sadie is on the cusp of adulthood, about to go off to college, and definitely testing the waters of her independence. When one of Sadie's plans go awry, Iris and John come together to deal with the crisis. While spending time together, they reflect on their relationship - why they loved each other and what problems separated them. It is a rather thoughtful look back over their marriage without bitterness, just some sadness. 

The major crisis that Sadie goes through was, in my opinion, not fully explored. It seemed to be a driving point in getting Irene and John to come together, but then was rushed through and glossed over. I would have liked to see more about this - how moving forward, they deal with what has happened.

Overall, this was a good story, but definitely not my favorite. I will, however, continue to read some of her older books - I have 7 sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to get to them!

What do you do when an author you like delivers a less than stellar book? Do you continue reading them or do you stop?

(I purchased this book.)

14 comments:

  1. I continue. If several ones after don't appeal to me, then I would stop.

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  2. Ditto Pat. If it's an author I truly enjoyed in the past, I'll keep reading them if only 1-2 books disappoint me for some reason (Jodi Picoult comes to mind--still one of my favorites despite disliking a few of her novels).

    Thanks for this review. I read Berg's The Year of Pleasures last year, and really enjoyed it.

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    1. I read and liked The Year of Pleasures, too.

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  3. I like to listen to her audiobooks because she narrates most of them herself. It really does add to the story, even if the plot is lacking. If you like audiobooks, I would definitely recommend checking them out!

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    1. I've listened to a few of her books and they are good audios. I don't think she narrated the ones I listened to, though.

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  4. Thanks for your concise review. I've read and enjoyed some of Elizabeth Berg's older books (such as Open House). My thought is that not every book is going to "wow" me. Some of it's due to the book, some of it's due to me (my mood, attentiveness, etc.).

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    1. I agree - not every book has the wow factor.

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  5. I just started reading her books a couple of years ago and a couple of them were not favorites of mine, but I will keep reading her books.

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    1. There's one that I have tried reading a few times, but just can't get into and now I can't even think of the name of it.

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  6. That's a great review for a book you didn't love! I haven't read Elizabeth Berg before and this does sound like a good story. I'd still read an author even if I didn't like a particular book. I've had authors where I loved a particular series or books and then read one that left me lacking. It is the rare author who can write only stellar novels.

    2 Kids and Tired Books

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    1. Thanks and you are right...very few authors can write the wow book every time!

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  7. Hi Kristin,

    I basically agree with everyone else, in that I would give an author a second chance, in case it was just my personal taste about one particular book that I didn't really enjoy.

    If an author changes their style and genre of writing completely, then I would probably stop following them right away ... I am thinking of Stephen King, who changed from writing thrillers to become more of a fantasy writer .... and James Patterson, who having written his own books for many years, now finds the urge to churn out vast quantities of very unsubstantial books he has written in collaboration with a stream of additional authors.

    I also think that all authors should narrate their own audio books, as it is really only they, who know exactly the experience they want the listener to take away with them, and can inflect the narration in the right places to achieve this.

    I have never read any Elizabeth Berg, however I may now give her books a try.

    Yvonne

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    1. Great points...I agree. I would give the author another shot and then make the decision as to stay with them or give them up. However, I still enjoy JP's books, even though I know he doesn't write all of them anymore.

      I've only listened to 1 audio that was narrated by the author - and I didn't think they did all that great with giving everyone their own voice.

      I do enjoy Elizabeth Berg - her books are definitely character-driven.

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