Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Review: The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg (audio)

From the back of the audio cover: Bette Nolan moves to a small town after the death of her husband to try to begin life anew. Though still dealing with her sorrow, Betta nonetheless is determined to find pleasure in her simple daily routines. Among those who help her in both expected and unexpected ways are the ten-year-old boy next door, three wild women friends from her college days with whom she reconnects, a young man who is struggling to find his place in the world, and a handsome widower who is ready for love.

Elizabeth Berg's The Year of Pleasures is about acknowledging the solace found in ordinary things: a warm bath, good food, the beauty of nature, music and art. Above all, The Year of Pleasures is about the various kindnesses people can - and do - provide one another. Betta's journey from grief to joy is a meaningful reminder of what is available to us all, regardless of what fate has in store. This exquisite book suggests that no matter what we lose, life is ready to give bountifully to those who will receive.

Read by: Sandra Burr

My thoughts: I have really come to enjoy reading Elizabeth Berg's work - I find that more than anything else, they are character studies of everyday people. This one is no different. It is the bittersweet story of Betta Nolan, a 55 year old new widow, who is on the path to discover new things about herself following the untimely death of her beloved husband. While the novel is about dealing with the grief and the loss of a beloved husband, it is also about change and reinventing yourself at midlife, no matter what your situation. 

In The Year of Pleasures, Betta Nolan finds herself alone after her husband dies and unsure how to grieve or move on. On impulse she sells their house and moves to the Midwest, a place to which she and her husband had talked about moving. There, in a new place, she discovers the things that are important to her while at the same time saying goodbye to the man she loved. Seeking the joy John wanted for her, Betta searches for pleasure in the mundane, the every day - cups of coffee, pancakes, the dog next door. She rekindles friendships with three former college roommates: Lorraine, Maddy, and Susanna. Making new friends becomes a theme of Bette's life as she adjusts to her new hometown. There's ten-year-old Benny, her next door neighbor who becomes a sort of surrogate son to her; twenty-something Michael, who ends up doing some odd jobs for Betta while becoming a confidant and inspiration; Dolores the realtor and Lydia the previous owner also become friends to Betta.
The Year of Pleasures is more than a book about the death of a spouse, it is about the life that we must learn to live afterwards. It is about doing one thing each day that brings you happiness instead of dwelling on grief. It was very easy to relate to Betta as she embarks on this new journey as I am sure all of us have asked ourselves that tough question - what would I do if this happened to me?

(I borrowed this audio book from the library)


  1. I keep telling myself that I must read Elizabeth Berg again because I keep hearing such fantastic things about her books. The first book of her's that I read was "The Last Time I Saw You' and I really wasn't a fan. This does sound like a beautiful story though - great review!

    Bonnie @ HandsAndHome

  2. @Bonnie The Last Time I Saw You was actually the first book that I read by Elizabeth Berg and thought it was good, but have found some of her others to be better. I really enjoyed The Art of Mending - I listened to that one as well. I just got a bunch of her books from Paperback Swap and hope to get to them soon!

  3. Oh, I have loved every one of Berg's books! The way she takes the ordinary moments and turns them into treasures is a treasure in itself!

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  4. Great review! I may need to read this book. Elizabeth Berg is a favorite writer of mine, although I haven't read any of her work the past few years.


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