cover image Open House

Open House

Elizabeth Berg. Random House Inc, $23.95 (256pp) ISBN 978-0-375-50100-5

A middle-aged woman asks herself if there's life after divorce, then answers with a resounding yes in another of Berg's gentle tales of female self-discovery. When Samantha Morrow's husband, David, bails out after almost 20 years of marriage, Sam first goes into denial, then heads for Tiffany's and blows $12,000 on a Limoges tea set, a silver flatware service for 10 and a diamond bracelet--which she gives away to a poor black woman she passes on the drive home. The one-time hippie has not built much of a life for herself outside marriage. As a stay-at-home mother, she cares for her 11-year-old son, Travis, and her relationships are mostly of the love-hate variety: with her ex-husband, her mother, Martha Stewart (who actually calls her on the phone) and herself. Forced to take in lodgers to pay the mortgage on her large suburban house--eventually there are three: 78-year-old Lydia; Edward, a gay hairdresser; and an eccentric girl named Lavender Blue--Sam finds a new friend in King, an MIT graduate-turned-laborer who helps Lydia move in. Though he is overweight, inexperienced and underemployed, King looks surprisingly appealing when compared to the disastrous men Sam's mother sets her up with. As King cooks, babysits and helps Travis with his math homework, gradually he wins Samantha's trust. And when David suggests that he and Samantha get back together, Samantha finally knows who she is, who she has become and what she wants. Berg (Durable Goods) once again refreshes a well-worn plot with knowing domestic detail, an understanding of familiar--sometimes conflicting--female emotions and an infectious sentimental optimism. Neither deep nor complex, Sam charms the reader as she learns to stand up for herself. It is hard not to root for her. 11-city author tour with Laura Catherine Brown. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.]