Win tickets to see the smash hit musical Mamma Mia at the Roanoke Civic Center. Two winners will each receive four tickets!
By Elizabeth Berg. Random House. 219 pages, $26
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Opening the mail and finding a new book by a favorite author is a simple joy to an avid reader. And yet, few things are a bigger buzz-kill than settling in for the promise of a good read only to find yourself sloughing through it, wondering if you will ever care about these characters.
That was my experience reading the novel “Tapestry of Fortunes” by Elizabeth Berg.
It took weeks to finish this slim volume — a mere 219 pages — because I just couldn’t find anything engaging in either the characters or the multiple storylines.
Cece Ross is an accomplished woman of a certain age (not clearly defined but old enough to regret not going to Woodstock while she was in college). She’s a successful self-help author and motivational speaker with a penchant for fortune telling who has recently lost her best friend and neighbor, Penny, to cancer.
Penny’s death causes Cece to rethink what’s important in life, and she starts making swooping changes. She takes a break from touring and writing, sells her comfortable Minneapolis-area suburban home and most of her belongings, and moves into a house with three other women. The housemates — Lise, Joni and Renie — all have their own issues. Lise is estranged from her college-age daughter for unexplained reasons and wants to reconnect with her ex-husband. Joni is a chef who loves her job but hates her boss. Renie, an advice columnist, has a secret from her teenage years that haunts her. Cece longs to find the artist she loved in her youth to see if that spark is still alive.
Within weeks of Cece’s arrival, the quartet of disparate ages and backgrounds become intimate confidantes and decide to take a road trip throughout the Midwest so they can each discover what their futures could hold.
Laced into this road story are a lot of cliches, vapid dialog and unrealistic situations. Before embarking on their journey, Cece volunteers at a hospice and, in just a couple of hours of sitting silently in his room, earns the trust and respect of young man dying of leukemia with whom no other hospice worker could make a connection.
What I missed from this book that I have found in Berg’s previous works is genuine tenderness ; relatable, developed characters; and humor. Unless you find being bullied in bowling alley or getting stoned with a diner waitress amusing, there are few smiles in this story. What’s also missing is a satisfying resolution to the numerous stories Berg created for the housemates.
Berg is a talented author, but “Tapestry of Fortunes” is a bit of tangled mess with too many loose strings.
Weather JournalBreather before next wintry system