cover image The Bridge Ladies

The Bridge Ladies

Betsy Lerner. Harper Wave, $25.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-235446-4

This absorbing memoir by literary agent and author Lerner (The Forest for the Trees) is about the game of bridge, but it’s also about bridging gaps—both the generational gap and the “personal gulf” that had defined Lerner’s relationship with her mother. At age 54, due to her husband’s job relocation, Lerner finds herself back in her hometown of New Haven, Conn., where her 83-year-old widowed mother still resides. Hoping to repair at least some of the rifts between them, she somewhat reluctantly re-enters her mother’s life and begins attending her Monday afternoon bridge game, first as an observer and later—after taking lessons at the Manhattan Bridge Club—as an occasional participant. Along with descriptions of her bridge lessons, Lerner shares the histories of the elegantly dressed New Haven ladies who have met weekly for 55 years, women who came of age in the 1940s and ’50s. As Lerner probes marriage, career, motherhood, postpartum depression, aging, death, assisted living, dementia, widowhood, religion, and sex, she discovers that although her mother and her bridge companions differ in some ways from her own generation (for example, they felt that marriage to a Jewish man trumped pursuing a career), they share common values of love and kinship. She also draws closer to her mother, gaining a deeper understanding of her interior life, including the rarely discussed childhood death of Lerner’s sister. This beautifully written, bittersweet story of ladies of a certain age and era will have wide appeal. [em](May) [/em]