Tapestry of Fortunes

By Elizabeth Berg

(Random House, $26, 240 pages)

Who is this author?

Elizabeth Berg, who once lived in New England but is now a resident of suburban Chicago, could be said to actually live in women’s minds. Her best-selling evocations of women’s friendships, love affairs, marriages and heartbreak resonate powerfully with her readers. Her breakout book was “Durable Goods,” which was followed by many novels, including “Talk Before Sleep,”  “Joy School,” “The Last Time I Saw You, Home Safe,” “The Year of Pleasures” and “Dream When You’re Feeling Blue.” She also has published two short story collections and two nonfiction books.

What is this book about?

Like many of Berg’s books, this is a story of women’s friendships and of women finding themselves through friendship. Here Cecelia, a motivational speaker in Minnesota, which is where Berg was born, is rocked by the death of a close friend and decides to re-examine her life. She sells her house and moves into another one with three roommates who also are dealing with transitions involving family and careers. When Cecilia gets a letter out of the blue from a former love, she is challenged to discover whether she has the courage to pursue abandoned paths and tie up the loose ends of her life.

Why you’ll like it:

Berg had me at “Talk Before Sleep,” one of those novels you read in one sitting and re-read with pleasure.  Before she was an author, Berg was a registered nurse, and the compassion necessary for that endeavor carries over into her writing. One of her gifts is her ability to get into the minds of her female characters and take her readers there, too. Another is her skill at writing dialogue that rings true and is funny when it needs to be and tender when it ought to be. It is this wonderful confluence of true-to-life characters and circumstances and authentic dialogue that animates her stories and keeps her large and loving readership eager to pick up the next Berg novel.

Here is what Berg told a Chicago Tribune reviewer about her work:

“… I think you have to write a lot of books before you know what it is you’re writing about, and as I look back, I consistently write about relationships, love, loss, resiliency — about life, really. It’s beautiful, life, but it’s really hard, too, and I want there to be both sides in every book I write. I want there to be humor and I want there to be pathos. In this particular book, though, there’s some poignancy in it, but it’s not as serious as some things I’ve written. This is kind of my women-just-want-to-have-fun book. After all, who doesn’t want to have a little fun?”

What others are saying:

Library Journal says: “Craving change, Cecilia Ross takes time off, disposes of her home, and moves into a grand old house in St. Paul with three roommates. The four women decide to take a road trip, one to connect with the daughter she gave up, another with a former husband; a professional chef wants to check out other restaurants. As for Cecilia, that unexpected letter from former heartthrob Dennis Helsinger has her sailing on the wind. Who better to tell this story than quintessential women’s author Berg?

“Maybe Freud didn’t know the answer to what women want, but Elizabeth Berg certainly does,” says The Seattle Times.

Says Booklistonline.com:  “Any woman who has ever longed to shake off her life and embark on a road trip with female companions will love “Tapestry of Fortunes.” Cecilia Ross, a motivational speaker who teaches others to live their truth, is unable to follow her own advice. When she receives a postcard out of the blue from the one man she never got over, she realizes it’s time to turn her regrets around. She seeks guidance from the fortune-telling devices that she stores in a box in the bedroom closet. Acting on their messages, Cece puts her house on the market, moves in with three women who are equally restless, and takes off with this newfound pack of friends, each on a mission to find the people and opportunities they missed. This book has all the ingredients for a highly satisfying read: a backroads journey, a testament to the power of female friendships, and the possibility of second chances. Berg strips her writing down to what is essential and takes an unflinching look at lifelong regrets. The characters are so completely realized, even the bit players will settle in your heart.”

When is it available?

It’s your good fortune that Berg’s latest is at the Downtown Hartford Public Library and its Blue Hills, Goodwin, Mark Twain and Ropkins branches.

Do you have something to say about this book, this author or books in general? Please post your comments here and I will respond. Let’s get a good books conversation going!

Comments are closed.