From Publishers Weekly
Love, work and the absence of both figure prominently in Berg's latest, a rumination on loss and replenishment. Since novelist Helen's husband, Dan, died a year ago, she's been unable to write, and though her publisher and agent aren't worried, she is, particularly after a disastrous performance at a public speaking engagement leaves her wondering if her writing career will be another permanent loss. Meanwhile, daughter Tessa is getting impatient as Helen smothers her with awkward motherly affection. Tessa longs for distance and some independence, but Helen is unable to run her suburban Chicago home without continually calling on Tessa to perform the handyman chores that once belonged to Dan. And then Helen discovers Dan had withdrawn a huge chunk of their retirement money, and Helen's quest to find out what happened turns into a journey of self-discovery and hard-won healing. Berg gracefully renders, in tragic and comic detail, the notions that every life—however blessed—has its share of awful loss, and that even crushed, defeated hearts can be revived. (May)
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Helen Ames is a popular and prolific writer living in Oak Park, Illinois, much like Elizabeth Berg. But Helen has lost her ability to write. Her inner world is as stunned and hushed as her cherished home in the wake of her husband’s sudden death. Dan took care of everything, leaving Helen free to dwell in her imaginary worlds. Now she is bereft and confused. Tessa, her beautiful, patient, funny daughter, a beauty editor at a woman’s magazine, is trying to help, as is Helen’s outspoken best friend, Midge. And at least Helen is financially secure. Or not. Where has her money gone? Did Dan have a secret life? Or was he planning a glorious surprise? Berg is a tender and enchanting storyteller who wisely celebrates the simple, sustaining elements of life, from comfort food to birdsong to a good laugh. A keen and funny observer, she is the poet of kindness. And not only is this an insightful, graceful, and romantic novel of one charmingly contradictory woman’s path through grief, it is also a paean to the profound pleasures and revelations of reading and the adventure and catharsis of writing. Books, Berg affirms in her magical way, are a unifying force for good in the cosmos. --Donna Seaman