Looking Back... In an effort to transfer my book journal entries over to this blog, I'm going to attempt to post (in chronological order) an entry every Friday. I may or may not add extra commentary to what I jotted down in these journals.
Range of Motion by Elizabeth Berg
1995 Random House
Finished in December 1996
Rating: 4/5 (Very Good)
"I can tell you how it happened. It's easy to say how it happened. He walked past a building, and a huge chunk of ice fell of the roof, and it hit him in the head. This is Chaplinesque, right? This is kind of funny. People start to laugh when I tell them. I see the start of their hand to their mouth, their poor disguise. I laughed when I heard. I thought after the doctor told me what happened that Jay would get on the phone and say, 'Jeez, Lainey, come and get me. I've got a goose egg the size of the world. Come take me home.' Only what happened wasn't like Chaplin: Jay didn't land on his butt with his legs sticking out at chopstick angles, twitch his mustache, get back up and walk away. He landed on his side, and stayed there."
And so begins this exquisite new novel by Elizabeth Berg, one of America's most beloved fiction writers. As in her best-selling Talk Before Sleep, Berg creates in Range of Motion a deeply satisfying novel about the power of hope, the bonds of love, and the enduring balm of friendship.
As Jay lies in a coma, his young wife, Lainey, is the only one who believes he will ever recover. When his doctors try to reach him, Jay does not respond. Yet Lainey believes he knows when she is there, and is stimulated by the gifts of ordinary life she brings him: sweet-smelling flowers, his children's drawings, his own softly textured shirt. As Lainey struggles to keep believing and to keep the family going, she goes deeper into herself, looking for solace, for strength, and for understanding. Overburdened, distracted, depressed yet determined, she feels desperate only at those times when her faith falters.
It is then that she is sustained by her friendships. Alice, her next-door neighbor, is strong when Lainey cannot be, though she has problems and secret fears of her own. And the spirit of Evie, a woman from the1940s who used to live in Lainey's house, now takes up a kind of residence again, offering advice and philosophy from a simpler time.
A superb novel filled with beautiful writing and truth about life, Range of Motion is hard to put down, and impossible to forget.
My Original Notes (1996):
Very good, but not as good as Talk Before Sleep. Light entertainment with a happy ending. Interesting touch of conversations with a ghost. Somewhat mystical.
My Current Thoughts:
I have no recollection of this book, but I loved Elizabeth Berg's early novels and own well over a dozen. I look forward to reading this again. I wonder if I'll still think it's as good as I did 20 years ago.
Nine o'clock. Sarah is in her bed, bedside lamp on, engrossed in a new book that is lying against her raised knees. She won't break the spine of a book, even a cheap paperback. She cradles her books in her lap like she's found the Grail. I don't argue against such reverence. I think it's right. When I was her age and finished a book I liked, I used to pet it, stroke the front cover, then the back; and then I'd kiss it.