Friday, April 22, 2011

217 (2011 #22). Home Safe

by Elizabeth Berg

I can see why a preview of this book was put in copies of Berg's The Year of Pleasures.  There's a lot of similarities.  Like Betta in the latter, main character Helen Ames is a writer (though suffering from writer's block) and a widow (though for almost a year, rather than just a month or so), and is similar in age (59 rather than 55).  She's dealing with aging parents and a 27-year-old daughter, Tessa (upon whom she's too dependent), and then she learns that her late husband Dan withdrew almost all of their nest egg before his sudden death.  Now worried about money, especially with her writer's block, she reluctantly agrees to teach a writer's workshop.

Helen was overly dependent on Dan, who at their first meeting “made her laugh…it had put them on the fast track for being comfortable with each other. As they were, ever after. Always comfortable in a way that Dan described as home safe.” (page 95)  Helen works through some of her grief and dependencies in the story, and learns a lot about what makes "home safe."

The mystery about what Dan did with the money is resolved pretty quickly, but I won't spoil it here. Suffice to say it generates more suspense about what Helen is going to do with the results - which I loved!  Parts of the plot (and Helen's and Tessa's characters) were a bit unbelievable or irritating, but I found Helen's relationship with her parents, as well as the writer's workshop (as I've participated in something similar myself), to be very realistic.  In the acknowledgments, Berg says her daughter "planted the seed for this novel.  When I was complaining that I felt like I couldn't write, she said, 'Why don't you write about that?'" (page 260)

Also, I think the cover art for this book is fabulous!  That, and the treehouse (page 129)!

© Amanda Pape - 2011

[This book was borrowed from and returned to the local public library.]

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