April 28, 2006

We Are All Welcome Here

We Are All Welcome Here by Elizabeth Berg
Contemporary Fiction
Finished on 4/15/06
Rating: B (6/10 So-so)

I’ve been reading Elizabeth Berg’s novels for over a decade. I always get excited when I hear she has a new book coming out, anxious to meet her characters, who almost always feel like people I know (or want to know). I’ve read every novel she’s written and will continue to do so, but unfortunately, Berg’s new novel failed to deliver and was a big disappointment. I suppose 1 in 15 isn’t too bad, but I certainly wasn’t prepared for the letdown.

Usually with a book of Berg’s, I’m torn between not wanting to put it down and not wanting it to end. However, they’re so enjoyable I tend to gulp them down, easily in a day or two. Many times I’ve saved a new purchase for a few weeks or so, just so I could have it to read on a long flight. They’re easy to get involved in and the time passes quickly. We Are All Welcome Here was a quick read, but it’s probably safe to say that it’s my least favorite of all of her books. The characters failed to come to life and I never felt an emotional attachment to any of them (very rare for me with her books). The plot didn’t interest me nearly as much as some of her others (Talk Before Sleep; Ordinary Life; The Year of Pleasures), yet in spite of the unbelievable ending, I did come to care about the characters toward the end of the book and actually wound up enjoying the last few chapters. But overall it just wasn’t very good. I never felt that “Berg” connection I’ve come to know when I read one of her books. I can almost always say that it feels like she’s stepped into my world and knows exactly how I feel about an issue. Not this time. And such a pretty cover! Sigh.

Note: I didn’t give much thought to the preface, but having read the book, I believe Ms. Berg should’ve trusted her instincts and not taken a reader’s suggestion for a story idea. It’s the only time she’s ever done just that and I think maybe that’s why this particular novel failed to impress me (and several other Berg fans).

Or maybe she just had an off year. I’m sure it happens to even the best of writers. I certainly won’t let this one mediocre novel put me off. Berg has another book due out in November and, as always, I’m planning to buy it as soon as it’s released. Hmmm, I wonder if I can convince my wonderful husband that I need to book a trip to Italy for the holidays! Or at least somewhere far away so I can take The Handmaid and the Carpenter along for the plane ride.


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  2. Anonymous6:30 PM

    Hey Les,
    What E. Berg books do you think would appeal to a young woman in her twenties?? Thanks.

  3. Most of Berg's novels deal with marriage/divorce, the death of a spouse, friendships (including a friend dying of cancer), and aging parents. The women in her books are usually between 30-50, so these might not be terribly appealing to a twenty-something-year-old. However, I did come up with a few that might.

    Until the Real Thing Comes Along
    Range of Motion
    What We Keep

    Also, Berg wrote a coming-of-age trilogy which features 12-year-old Katie Nash. These are wonderful books:

    Durable Goods
    True to Form
    Joy School

    Hope this helps!

  4. Anonymous3:18 PM

    I agree with you. My least fave Berg book after Until the Real Thing Comes Along. Think she's writing them a bit too fast?

  5. You know, Nancy, she very well might be, but that won't stop me from getting her next one this winter.


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