Read eBook Open HouseAuthor Elizabeth Berg –

I was truly shocked by how much I disliked this book I ve been enjoying Elizabeth Berg s books since I picked up a copy of Say When at my library in 2004 since then I haven t read one I didn t enjoy a great dealuntil now This story was awkward, weird, and depressing The characters were very hard to connect with, or even like Finally, the conflicts were tied up with a neat, tidy, and abrupt bow in the end while glossing over a great deal of pain and trauma It also had the feel of trying too hard to be something it wasn t I m really surprised that THIS was chosen as an Oprah book club selection when Ms Berg has written wonderful books like The Year of Pleasures and Range of Motion. Shallow sketches of uninteresting characters paired with the bare outline of a plot whose every development was easily guessed Had Berg gone any deeper into any of the characters, we might have had a reason to empathize or sympathize with them, to root for them even, but instead we can hardly wait for the book to end Which doesn t take long, because there s nothing of substance to slow down the page turning I started the book two weeks before I finished it, because I set it down after the first third which was read in under an hour and then forgot that I was reading it because it was so inconsequential. In This Superb Novel By The Beloved Author Of Talk Before Sleep, The Pull Of The Moon, And Until The Real Thing Comes Along, A Woman Re Creates Her Life After Divorce By Opening Up Her House And Her HeartSamantha S Husband Has Left Her, And After A Spree Of Overcharging At Tiffany S, She Settles Down To Reconstruct A Life For Herself And Her Eleven Year Old Son Her Eccentric Mother Tries To Help By Fixing Her Up With Dates, But A Pressing Problem Is Money To Meet Her Mortgage Payments, Sam Decides To Take In Boarders The First Is An Older Woman Who Offers Sage Advice And Sorely Needed Comfort The Second, A Maladjusted Student, Is Not Quite So Helpful A New Friend, King, An Untraditional Man, Suggests That Samantha Get Out, Get Going, Get Work But Her Real Work Is This In Order To Emerge From Grief And The Past, She Has To Learn How To Make Her Own Happiness In Order To Really See People, She Has To Look Within Her Heart And In Order To Know Who She Is, She Has To Remember And Reclaim The Person She Used To Be, Long Before She Became Someone Else In An Effort To Save Her Marriage Open House Is A Love Story About What Can Blossom Between A Man And A Woman, And Within A Woman Herself From The Hardcover Edition Open House is a celebration of self absorption, self centeredness and self pity in women The book centers on a recent divorcee, Sam, who whines incessantly and feels sorry for herself Sam reads like a misogynist s idea of what a woman is, alternating between a nagging, vindictive shrew and an emotional, ultra sensitive, self pitying sad sack who s always one slight away from crying Seriously, why exactly are we supposed to give a damn about this pathetic individual There are people like this in real life and they do deserve help, of the psychiatric kind that doesn t mean their self centered antics have to be celebrated or legitimized in literature if an Oprah Book Club pick can count under that distinction Talking about self centeredness, there s a slobbering interview with author Elizabeth Berg featured in the back of the book, in which she says A lot of men have told me that my books help them understand their women better If I thought there was even the slightest truth to the notion that most women behave like this, and not just a certain sector of Oprah loving upper class divorcees who feel like the world owes them something, it would be enough for me to swear off the female sex for life What makes the whining and self pitying of Sam so perverse is that, by all accounts, she lives a really good life Better than most of us do She s never had to work a day in her life She lives a luxurious, upper class lifestyle Even after the breakdown of her marriage, she gets to keep the house, and the fact that she needs to bring in tenants to help with the pay is treated as some major life changing development rather than the reality it is for most people Here s someone who has had everything handed to her on a platter in life and yet cries, whines, and never learns a goddamn thing There are people struggling to pay their bills, people starving to death in third world countries, people suffering with severe disabilities and mental illness, and all she can do is whine about how her divorce is the end of the world Look, I get that divorce can be a hugely upsetting and catastrophic event in some people s lives my parents divorced, but they never took it as cart blanche to forgo all their responsibilities and act like immature children Among the litany of Sam s offenses After finding a pair of her husband s dirty boxers in the laundry, she buries her face in them and tries to inhale the scent Then, she sews up the fly on the boxers If you think this was some stupid spur of the moment decision, to quote Sam, With great care, I do this, with tenderness Oh yeah, in case that wasn t enough Then I go back to the pile of laundry and get some of his fancy socks and sew the tops of them shut Determined to live in elegance following the divorce, Sam decides she will make her son freshly squeezed orange juicedespite the fact that he doesn t like it When he says she doesn t have to make it, she insists When he asks for a glass of Tropicana from the fridge instead, she refuses When he asks if they re out of it, she lies and says yes When he opens the fridge and sees the jug of juice, she dumps it down the sink That will show the stupid kid for wanting a glass of juice Sam insists on being the one to break the news to her son about the divorce Then, she tells her son that the reason for the divorce is because his dad is self centered and she hates him Following this outburst, she begins to mope about her bad breath, gray hair and cellulite rather than the fact, you know, that she just horribly upset her son Deciding not to resort to vindictive pettiness, Sam goes to Tiffanys and charges 12,000 worth of stuff she has no need for to her husband s credit card She s then shocked when her husband freezes their account and cuts her off She eavesdrops on her son and his friend When she hears them playing a harmless prank call on a girl in their class, she storms into the room, takes a bag of cookies from the friend and decides she will lecture her son on how to treat women properly Prank phone calls No Charging 12,000 to someone else s credit card Sure, why not Sam goes on a blind date with a man She acts like a real floozy, kissing him in the restaurant and asking Should we do it here Or should we go and make out in the car with the heater turned up They end up back at his place, where they begin making love to each other Midway through, she asks this man playfully, with a laugh, to stop When he doesn t, she tells him seriously to stop He immediately stops Sure, he is mean to her afterward, but he does stop Then she goes home, tells the man who is babysitting her son as a favor that all men are assholes, and then claims she was date raped, Almost So you ask a guy to stop and he does, and that s date rape You wanna try telling that to a woman has actually suffered through the trauma of date rape, Sam After getting a temporary week long job literally doing nothing but sitting behind a desk and making change, Sam is offered a full time position She turns it down She says she can t commit to a full time job Really, what the hell else do you have to do If you actually have the time to delicately sew the flies shut on your husband s boxers, I think you have time for a job Sam prepares a Thanksgiving dinner for herself She mixes all the food on her plate, and when she doesn t like the look of it, dumps all the perfectly good food down the garbage disposal Meanwhile, somewhere out there is a family of four starving Throughout Open House, Sam rents out rooms in her house to different tenants If I remember correctly, at one time or another she enters each of these tenant s rooms without their knowledge and pokes around, lies on their beds and just plain out invades their privacy As a final note, besides the general nastiness of Sam, I was fairly disturbed by the abundance of racist and homophobic stereotypes throughout Open House I consider myself a fairly politically incorrect person it takes quite a bit to offend me However, even I was a little put off by some of the characterizations in Open House There s a black guy who carries a boom box blasting rap music, a black mom begging for change on a street corner with her kid, an old Asian Laundromat owner with tea colored teeth who speaks in broken English with monosyllabic phrases such as Detective and Dumb , a flamboyantly gay hairdresser, and a teenager who is, of course, an emo We get 241 pages about the troubles of middle aged, upper class, white women and you can t throw in a single minority character that isn t a stereotype straight out of the 1920 s. Next time I find myself thinking that I need a really easy read, I ll edit my thought to be I need an easy, BUT STILL WORTHWHILE, read Although I hate to love, and love to hate on Oprah and her book club books, they usually are pretty decent Oprah needs to fire who ever read this book for her, at once And the thing I find the most perplexing is that my mom left it in my room at home to read I mean, she actually read this book and thought to herself Liz would like this and then put it in my room for me to find It just baffles me to her credit though she has recommended many fine books in the past Elizabeth Berg has a way of creating characters who I want to be friends with They are real and vulnerable and strong This was a story about Sam, who is heartbroken and lost after her husband moves out Sam slowly picks herself up with the help of some wonderful friends Loved this one. Samantha s husband recently left her and her 11 year old son Travis She expresses herself through Martha Stewart, shopping at Tiffany s and renting out rooms in her house to many different personality types The characters throughout the book all teach Samantha something about herself and she re discovers herself and her strength along the way.I really enjoyed this one I listened to it on audiobook and was completely enraptured in the storyline Beth Fowler was the narrator and she did an incredible job I laughed out loud and really connected with what Sam was going through.Looking forward to reading by Elizabeth Berg. I am going to review this book based on the first 3 4 and the last 1 4.At first, I was pleasantly surprised when I picked this one up Berg described feelings and characters in such detail that I was eager to read of her work I really felt for Sam, the main character, and I loved how Berg added Sam s inner thoughts as an aside of the regular plot I was debating between 4 and 5 stars because I kept thinking about what would happen at the end and I was really into the book.The last 1 4, I wanted to throw it out the window I don t like to review with spoilers because I like to think my friends occasionally use my reviews to help their next choice for what to read, like I do with most books Anyway, there was an incredibly unbelievable plot twist that totally ruined it for me I no longer saw Sam as a real person but rather a fictional character who was desperate and cheesy and all the things she didn t seem in the first half The end was less than thrilling.So, Open House gets an average of 3 stars from me. Elizabeth Berg might just be my favorite author for a guaranteed, enjoyable comfort read I may need to keep one of her books handy at all times Her stories are true to life, her characters are relatable and I tend to fly through her books and end them with a sense of satisfaction for time well spent This was no different Samantha Sam is sailing along in her marriage, keeping a home for her husband and Mothering her son Travis, but when her husband leaves her the boat capsizes and leaves her rather adrift She starts to question everything in her life After her initial shock, and rather fun reactions.which includes a call to Martha Stewart and a shopping trip at Tiffany s she gets busy trying to create a new life for herself and her son She backslides some but gets quite a bit of help from her no nonsense friend Rita, clueless Mother and a new friend, King Her son Travis even offers up quite a bit of 11 year old advice..mostly, You really are crazy This is a thoughtful and often humorous look at the end of a marriage and one way of lifeand all the new avenues that can open up to you if you are willing to travel them I would imagine many women have been in the same place.or helped someone close to them through it The story is not all feel good, but somehow you know it will end up well I remove my wedding rings and put them in the jewelry box So many others have done this I am not the only one I am not the only one But here, I am the only one. I read Open House by Elizabeth Berg for the first time four years ago I discovered her books at the library and read all of Berg s titles available there, then purchased some additional titles as well I ve now read all of her books except, oddly considering my profession, her book on writing, which I haven t finished yet A few weeks ago, I decided to purchase paperback editions and re read a few of Berg s books I started with Open House.I ve just now gone to Berg s site to grab a short synopsis, and see that Open House was published by Random House in 2000 This novel was the author s first written , but not the first she had published Here is the synopsis from Elizabeth A woman whose husband has moved out decides that, rather than selling their house, she will keep it and rent out rooms to boarders This novel, which was an Oprah pick, is about finding the gifts inside yourself that you ve ignored or not been aware of It emphasizes the fact that sometimes it takes a tragedy to get you to the best place you can be Here is mine When husband David leaves Samantha after many years of marriage, Sam first reacts by imitating Martha Stewart in an attempt to create the perfect home for her and her 11 year old son, Travis When this soon wanes, Sam, determined to keep the family home, opens the doors of her house and the doors of her heart to a few strangers and a man named King, who has a degree in astrophysics and works for a temp agency Sam starts working there, too, and as the book progresses, Berg weaves the story of how a person s heart can heal and open to the beauty of the world around them once again, even when they are so profoundly changed by circumstances that they may feel unrecognizable to their former selves When Sam faces what she thought she once longed for, and makes a surprising decision, some readers may recognize having been faced with a similar dilemma as time marches on and our old dreams boomerang back in our faces, challenging our new desires.Open House is not simply my favorite Elizabeth Berg book it is one of my very favorite books ever This is because it is well written, well woven, and I can relate to much of the storyline My first marriage lasted about the same length as fictional character Samantha s My boys were about the same age as Sam s son, Travis I, too, had to figure out how to earn money, how to handle a life that had suddenly changed in what felt like every single way, how to parent pre teen sons and in that process re invent myself, or find myself, or just grow and change, like many people do But this commonplace process takes extraordinary strength, I believe not compared to humanity but compared to what we might have been called upon before to have , and Berg seems to think so also She blends strength and a fragile sensitivity into the character of Sam as well as King , and this makes the main character someone you would want as your best friend someone you want to be happy and to be loved.As a writer, I find it impressive that in the 241 pages of Open House the author has created endearing characters and a story that touched me so deeply because as I read it I thought, Yes, that I did that same thing I felt that same way. This is the magic of Berg s writing, in this book and in others If you haven t yet discovered her books, start with one of her many titles soon Note This is not a paid review, nor a requested review, and I have never worked with Elizabeth Berg, though I have liked her Facebook page. Janice Phelps Williams, writer, illustrator at www.janicephelps.comAuthor of Open Your Heart with Pets Mastering Life through Love of Animals Transformation Publishing 2012