THE ART OF MENDING

Elizabeth Berg, Author . Random $24.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6159-4

Bestselling novelist Berg (Talk Before Sleep ; Open House ) explores memory, love and forgiveness in her flawed but moving 12th novel. At her annual family reunion, Laura Bartone, a 50-something "quilt artist," is forced to confront the secrets that have long haunted her family. Her emotionally unstable sister, Caroline, tells Laura and their brother, Steve, that their mother abused her as a child. As Laura and Steve—whose own childhoods were reasonably happy—struggle to make sense of Caroline's accusations and wonder how they could've been oblivious to or complicit in what happened, their father dies. This could be the stuff of melodrama, but Berg generally manages to avoid it. Her prose is often luminous and buoyant, and her insights can be penetrating. Her big ideas, though, are too frequently interrupted by the sort of domestic-detail overdoses that belong in less ambitious novels ("I hung up, flipped the turkey burgers for the last time, dumped the oven-baked French fries into a basket and salted them, sliced tomatoes, drained the water off the ears of corn..."). Other shortcomings include a few gender stereotypes and a husband and children for Laura who seem too good to be true ("Sometimes it seemed like I was making it up," Laura thinks). But Laura's thornier relationships with her mother and siblings are carefully rendered and compelling. Berg has written a nuanced account of a family's implosion, with enough ambiguity and drama to give book clubs—the book's likely audience—plenty to discuss and to keep any reader intrigued, right up to the fittingly redemptive ending. Agent, Lisa Bankoff . 8-city author tour. (Apr. 13)

Reviewed on: 03/22/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Hardcover - 336 pages - 978-0-375-43373-3
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