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Durable Goods: A Novel (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – May 13, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In Berg's understated and promising fiction debut, a 12-year-old "army brat" comes to epitomize the quality that her father prizes: emotional durability. Narrator Katie lives on a Texas Army base with her 18-year-old sister and volatile father, an officer of unidentified rank. The girls' mother has died of cancer, although Katie never discusses how much time has passed since the loss. Accustomed to a military lifestyle, suspecting that her home will be only a temporary one, Katie leads a fairly ordinary existence. She and her best friend go swimming, talk about puberty and meet boys. When the inevitable happens and the family learns they're being transferred to Missouri, Katie tries to accept the impending change, but her sister, who can no longer tolerate her father's abuse, rebels. Direct, matter-of-fact sentences convey resilient Katie's point of view; the absence of a maternal figure is acutely felt, particularly in the vulnerable but violent father's frightening temper. Overall, however, this subdued tale of a troubled family is more modest than memorable, insinuating rather than fully examining its characters' motives. Author tour.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

YA-After her mother's death, Katie and her father move from their home on a Texas army base. Her sister Diane, 18, runs away with her boyfriend rather than spend any more time with her grieving, distant father. Katie, at 12, is just discovering her potential and working through relationships with friends, boys, her sister and, most especially, her father. Every once in a while, she and readers see the unresolved despair that contributes to his abusive spells. No one in this compelling story is completely right or wrong. Diane cannot see the man's pain or, if she does, cannot forgive him yet. He is seemingly uncaring and cruel, but, at moments, is also loving and concerned for his small family. At the end of this book, readers will feel that the girl and her father are going to make it. Katie is an endearing and persistent heroine, and Berg's prose borders on the poetic. This is an easy read, but its haunting images of coming of age are sure to remain with YAs.
Susan H. Woodcock, Potomac Library, Woodbridge, VA
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (May 13, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081296814X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0812968149
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (81 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #271,854 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Elizabeth Berg won the NEBA Award for fiction for her body of work, and was a finalist for the ABBY for Talk Before Steep. Her writing has appeared in numerous publications, including Ladies' Home Journal, Redbook, and the New York Times Magazine. She has also taught a writing workshop at Radcliffe College. She lives near Boston, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

I just can't put them down.
Norma J. Wolf
It's a slice-of-life story with very real, believable characters.
Indiana Kristin
To me, it was boring and slow and little character developement.
K L Keaton

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Luan Gaines HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 6, 2005
Format: Paperback
Berg focuses on a transitional period in the life of a twelve-year old (going on thirteen), Katie Nash. Her mother recently died from cancer and Katie lives with eighteen-year old sister, Diane, in a delicate emotional balance, avoiding the father, who has a volatile temper and frequently hits the girls. The violence is nothing new. Even when their mother was alive, the father took out his aggression on his daughters. Army brats, their lives are constantly in flux, moving whenever the father is posted to another base.

The father's rage is a fact of life for his daughters, the family's constant preoccupation with appeasement common behavior, especially when the mother's death leaves each of them hollow with grief. Katie's best friend lives next door, a girl two years older who guides Katie through feminine mysteries and rituals defined by glossy magazines, endless grooming details that insure success with the opposite sex.

Katie finds solace in her role models, sister and best friend, but has begun a solitary journey of self-discovery that is made more piquant by the inevitable yearning for her mother at this critical time in her young life. The best friend is predictable, but sister Diane is ready to break away from a life controlled by their father's narrow constraints and senseless rules. The sisters make a fateful decision, but it is tempered by Katie's shifting loyalties, her inability to make appropriate choices, given her vulnerability and immaturity. Grasping the familiar, Katie finds a new perspective on letting go and the chimerical nature of loss, that some things stay even when they're gone.

Berg's plain-spoken narrative navigates an adolescent passage into the real world, where even forgiveness is possible and change hovers on the horizon.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Gayla Collins on September 3, 2001
Format: Paperback
I have just discovered the magic that is Elizabeth Berg in the last year. I began with "Pull of the Moon" and am gliding my way through the remainder of her precious works. "Durable Good's" is her first book which is amazing when you read the stellar quality of this effort. Katie, a tender, blossoming 12 year old, steals your heart at first page and never let's go. Berg writes effectively in choppy paragraphs the feelings, the observations, the problems, the joys, the experiences of our Katie. Exactly like a child would think....darting from one subject to another without elongated deliberations. So magical and beautiful, that the more maudlin theme of this book can be digested by the reader with the hopefulness of a twelve year old girl. This is brilliant, impassioned, wise, cultured writing. Elizabeth Berg never fails to thrill me with her inventive techniques and tender stories.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ratmammy VINE VOICE on March 12, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Durable Goods is the story of young Katie, a pre-adolescent girl that is anxious to grow up and at the same time is dealing with things that the average teenager shouldn't have to go through. She's just lost her mother to cancer, her father beats both her and her sister Diane, and she feels often that she's all alone. She misses her mother terribly,and often envisions seeing and talking to her mother as if she had never passed away. The book is written from her point of view, so the reader learns about Katie from a more personal perspective.
The plot line in Durable Goods is thin, I thought, but the author created a very likeable character in Katie. The first half of the book builds up the character and introduces her relationships with her father (abusive) and sister (sometimes friend, sometimes enemy) and her best friend CherylAnne, who is two years older and is very wise and womanly for her age.
Katie is a strong person for her young years, and that is what makes her so likeable. Dealing with the death of her mother and her confrontations with her father show how strong she really is. Whereas Dianne tries to escape from her problems, katie tries to deal with them.
This is Elizabeth Berg's first novel, but it was not the first novel of hers that I've read. I think it was an impressive first novel and would be a good place to start for anyone new to her books. Other books I'd highly recommend is Joy School, which continues the saga of katie, and What We Keep, a story about an older woman who is trying to deal with her past.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 20, 2000
Format: Paperback
Throughout the novel Durable Goods by Elizabeth Berg, Katie, a typical twelve year old girl, tries to find herself in the great big world in which she lives. She struggles during her developmental years without the help of her mother who has died of cancer. She dreams of falling in love, having a father who is not abusive, and for something exciting to happen on the boring Texas army base in which she lives. In her relationships with her older sister Diane, her dearest friend Cherylanne and her father, Katie discovers the qualities she likes and dislikes about these people. As she grows more mature, she realizes the kind of person she would like to become as an adult. This is when Katie creates a new person, herself. From this point on, Katie becomes more confident in herself and handles life calmly and better than ever! I would highly recommend this well written novel for anyone who strives for comfort and support during his or her teenage years. I feel that I have captured all the special moments of Katie's life and will savor the advice given to Katie during her difficult times. Durable Goods is an unforgettable tale of a girl just like all of us.
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