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Open House: A Novel (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – May 1, 2001

3.7 out of 5 stars 389 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Oprah Book Club® Selection, August 2000: The narrator of Elizabeth Berg's Open House calls divorce "a series of internal earthquakes ... one after the other." She ought to know. Samantha is abandoned by her husband in the opening pages of this three-handkerchief special, and the resultant tremors keep her off-balance for most of the novel. There are practical problems aplenty, of course, including a shortage of money and an 11-year-old son to raise. But Sam's sense of emotional bereavement is far worse, despite the fact that her husband had been giving her the conjugal cold shoulder for years:
I miss David so much, yes I do, I miss the presence of another person in my bed at night, even if he doesn't touch me; the reliability of someone else being there in the morning, even if they only shave and stare straight ahead into the mirror while you lean against the bathroom doorjamb with your cup of coffee, chatting hopefully.
The loneliness in her "as constant and as irrefutable" as circulating blood, Sam begins to rebuild her life. She finds herself a job and takes in a couple of boarders to help meet her mortgage payments. (One of them, a depressed student named Lavender Blue, informs her that "life was nothing but one major disappointment after the other"--the sort of homily that Sam is understandably reluctant to hear these days.) She also starts dating, with disastrous results. Yet this comically kvetching heroine does manage to find love in the ruins, and by the time Open House winds down, it's hard not to believe that she's much better off. Throughout, Berg alternates her snappy and sappy registers like a real pro. And the conclusion, which most readers will be able to spot a mile off, seems just right--the light at the end of the post-matrimonial tunnel. --Anita Urquhart --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Touching . . . [A] deft, sweet, and often comic novel."
--Chicago Tribune

"THIS NOVEL MAKES FOR PLEASANT READING . . . PATTY MURPHY IS APPEALINGLY VULNERABLE. . . . NOVELIST ELIZABETH BERG HAS AN ENGAGING VOICE AND STYLE."
--Los Angeles Times

"A PERCEPTIVE COMEDY OF MODERN MANNERS . . . At the end of each undemanding day, Patty goes home to an empty apartment and listens to her biological clock ticking as ominously as Captain Hook's crocodile. . . . Patty wants a husband and a baby, and not necessarily in that order. . . . But Patty has a problem. Try as she might, there is only one man she can love--her best friend, Ethan--and try as Ethan might, he is quite firmly and intractably gay. With rueful good humor, Until the Real Thing Comes Along shows how Patty and Ethan come to terms with the impossibility of having it all."
--The Boston Globe

"BERG WRITES WITH HUMOR AND UNDERSTANDING ABOUT MATTERS OF THE HEART. . . . The author's generous view of humanity is evident in her characters, who walk right off the page they are so well and truly drawn."
--St. Louis Post Dispatch

"ENTERTAINING . . . FLAWLESS DIALOGUE . . . READING IT IS LIKE EAVESDROPPING ON AN INTIMATE FEMALE CHAT."
--New York Daily News

"COMPELLING . . . [A] WARMLY TOLD TALE."
--People
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (May 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345435168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345435163
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (389 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #413,940 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

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Berg has done it again---told the story of Everywoman, or at the least, a story every woman can identify with. This moving book, about the disintegration of a marriage and its aftermath, will touch all who read it.
Sam deals with the end of her marriage in a scattershot way: looking for reasons, spending lots of money, trying to figure out what to do, and generally flailing about, emotionally. But the reader comes to understand why, thanks to Berg's wonderful writing. This was the reaction of a woman has no idea what will happen next, when all the things she has thought would come to pass suddenly are no longer a part of her future.
The reader observes Sam as she takes in boarders to help pay the mortgage, has a succession of temp jobs, and begins dating again. At the same time, Sam is going through the grief process, trying to heal herself emotionally in order to get herself to a better place.
I found Berg's humor much more apparent in this book than in any of her others. I laughed out loud when Sam sat down at her sewing machine and sewed up the fly on every one of her husband's boxer shorts! Her characterizations -- of her son, her mother, and the boarders -- were excellent.
Had I not read any other Berg books, I probably would have given this a "5" but I don't think it was quite as good, nor as moving, as "Talk Before Sleep" or "Pull of the Moon".
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Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed 'Open House', don't get me wrong. I have read several of Elizabeth Berg's works, and am used to her simple style. It's quite easy to sit down with one of her books and finish it in a few hours. In other words, it keeps you engrossed, but doesn't ask much more from you.
Berg's strong point is making you care for her characters, as much as she can from how little she gives you. Sam seems to be a bit needy, pathetic and lost at the beginning, but soon learns and finds strength and resilience where she least expects it. She has her son, growing older and away from her; her best friend, so close at heart but so far away; her new friend, King, who we all have to adore; her new housemates, who open her up to the world. Reading through their lives for a short time is interesting and enjoyable.
That said, I don't see why this was picked as an Oprah Book Club selection. I'm glad to see Elizabeth Berg getting more attention, since her past works certainly deserve it. But this novel is sparse and light; it is not one of her best. It is worth a read, but not the accolades. While I sped through it quickly and couldn't put it down for a few hours, once it was through it didn't linger much in my mind. Read this, and then go read more of her older novels. Many of them are much better.
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By Toni on August 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I loved reading this book just as I have loved reading all of Berg's other books (I was especially moved by Talk Before Sleep). Berg creates characters who are loveable and real, but in Open House, I was disappointed by the lack of depth she allowed her heroine and her compatriots. That aside, there are genuinely poignant moments in the novel that capture your heart as well as moments that are so amusing you'll laugh out loud. I was especially appreciative of Berg's easy, straight-forward writing style - I read Open House start to finish in one evening over a cafe latte. In a complex world, it's a complete delight to have the opportunity to drop into someone else's world for an evening and then leave it feeling satiated. I would highly recommend Open House as a "feel good" read.
PS. I'll never think of Martha Stewart in the same way ever again! Thank you Elizabeth Berg.
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Format: Hardcover
What could be better? A favorite author and a subject matter close to my heart. I opened the pages of "Open House" all set for an emotional ride that I have experienced through Ms. Berg's other work. I was sadly disappointed.
There simply wasn't anything to hang onto in this book. I found the characters fragmented and fractured. I wanted to like Sam. I wanted to take her into my heart as kin. But the harder I tried the more she annoyed me. From beginning to end I saw someone who was clueless, selfish and immature. It was especially difficult having been in a simular situation myself.
If Sam had been reading this book she would have given up half-way through. I stuck it out to the end...hoping for some glimmer of reality...emotion or attachment to something or someone.
It never showed up. Skip this one inspite of it being an Oprah selection. And if you do read it, don't judge all of Elizabeth Berg's work by this one.
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Format: Hardcover
Once again Elizabeth Berg has created a woman I want to meet, I love this woman! Samantha holds her own while struggling to maintain a normal life and provide a loving home for her son Travis in the midst of recovering from having the rug pulled out from under her feet and figuring out where to go from here. These characters are so real it's amazing, what a talent Ms. Berg has! Samantha manages to make me laugh with her "so very real" internal dialogue even as she is on the edge of utter despair. . . I can't say enough good things about this writer!
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