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Say When : A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, April 20, 2004

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • ISBN-10: 0743411374
  • ASIN: B0008EH6M8
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (91 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,813,433 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Husbands frequently tune out their spouses, but Frank Griffin makes valiant attempts to ignore Ellen, his wife of 10 years, when she announces she has a lover and wants a divorce in this endearing, undemanding novel by Berg (True to Form, etc.). Griffin (he goes by his last name) struggles to hold on to his normal life-namely his house and his eight-year-old daughter, Zoe-while repairing his relationship with Ellen. Refreshingly, Berg tells the story from Griffin's point of view: he refuses to leave home, insisting that he and Ellen live as roommates, and tries to wear her down with small acts of kindness. A decent man and a good provider, Griffin is also-he comes to realize-a less-than-exciting partner at times, dismissive of his wife's attempts to get him to read poetry and see art movies, or try anything new at all. Eccentric, shy Ellen, an isolated, stay-at-home mother whose only friend is the waitress at her regular diner, has her own flaws. In trying to live out her adolescence 20-plus years too late, she flaunts her new romance in ways that evoke either disdain or pity for her na‹vet‚. Some readers may feel she gives up her quest for more freedom too quickly; others will appreciate the way she explores her complicated feelings about her marriage. Griffin, meanwhile, makes changes, too, trying a stint as a shopping mall Santa and winning a few dates. Berg has a talent for dialogue, and her skillfully crafted interactions between characters-scenes with tomboy Zoe are always a bright spot-are homey and convincing. These days, separation and divorce are commonplace, but a book that treats those subjects with Berg's tenderness and understanding is not.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Popular author Berg (True to Life [BKL Mr 1 02]) will thrill her fans with this sweet, often humorous novel about loss and reconciliation. Staid, routine-loving Frank Griffin is dealt a horrific blow when Ellen, his wife of 10 years, tells him she has been having an affair and wants a divorce. Who, he poignantly wonders, could know her as well as he does? He refuses to move out of the house and makes snide comments about her auto-mechanic lover (the "greasy paramour") as the two eventually settle into an awkward routine as roommates. Just so he will have somewhere to go on the nights she is not with her lover, he signs up to play Santa at the local shopping mall and meets Donna, an attractive photographer. He throws away his wedding ring and makes a halfhearted attempt to start up a relationship with her, but although she outwardly appears to have it all over his wife--Donna is a wealthy, talented, and classic beauty--he has to admit to himself that he has never met anyone who appealed to him more than Ellen. Berg keeps her story light and funny, shading in the particulars of their relationship with just the right kind of domestic detail. Her insights into the way marriage can sometimes make its partners feel safe and sometimes imprisoned are all the more effective for her deft touch. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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

In the end I just didn't like this book.
Mercedes J.
I have only read one other Berg novel--but after reading this book, I will definitely read more.
Cassie W.
Ultimately I didn't feel any of the characters changed in this story.
Cindy Gerlach Mueller

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Cassie W. on March 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Okay, I'm going to go against the overwhelmingly popular opinion of most of the other reviewers and say that I fell in love with this book on the first page--rather, I fell in love with the character of Griffin on the first page. Elizabeth Berg's SAY WHEN chronicles the story of the marriage of Ellen and Griffin, and the affair that causes them to reevaluate their relationship. The novel is written from Griffin's point-of-view and is a searingly honest portrait of the effects of infidelity which, as it turns out, are not wholly negative. Throughout the course of the novel, Griffin is forced to examine his feelings and actions in regards to his wife and face tough questions: Did he unknowingly drive her into the arms of another man? Is there anything he could have done to prevent her affair? Does he really even know his wife? With her trademark humorous, sarcastic prose, Elizabeth Berg once again offers an ingenious novel that touches issues close to every human heart.

I was astonished at Berg's ability to so successfully write from the point of view of a man. Griffin is a multi-layered, realistic character; in him, I saw some of my own husband's traits (only the good ones, of course). He is a brilliantly-honed character that incites sympathy in the reader; likewise, Griffin and Ellen's eight-year-old daughter, Zoe, is equally realistic and sympathetic. Zoe is intelligent, strong-willed, and incredibly observant; with her amazingly revealing dialogue, Berg deftly illustrates the true depth of Zoe's feelings.

The only character I was unable to warm up to was Ellen, Griffin's wife--which perhaps was intentional. I found her to be unreasonably cold, selfish, and unloving.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Tracy Vest VINE VOICE on April 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
After his wife Ellen tells him that she is having an affair and wants a divorce, Griffin makes it difficult for her to turn her back on their marriage. He does not want to be a weekend father to their precocious daughter, Zoe. Rather than move out, he stays, and they become unlikely roommates, as he attempts to come to grips with the breakdown of his marriage and what would cause his wife to turn to a much younger man.

Told in the first-person, from Griffin's point of view, it provides a refreshing and poignant look at how time can cause complacency and a sudden jolt can bring about immense change in a relationship. He performs many acts of kindness in an effort to win her back, but as Ellen tells him, it is too little, too late.

An impulsive decision to become a department store Santa has a profound effect on Griffin, as he forges new friendships, attempts to jump back into the dating pool, and strives to understand what led Ellen astray and figure out if perhaps his lack of spontaneity drove her away.

Eventually, the stress of remaining together as roommates (and Griffin waiting up for her after her dates with "Opie") takes its toll, and Ellen branches out for a little independence by getting an apartment. The setting might have changed, but the same problems are still there. As a reader, we are kept guessing until the very end how the relationship will unfold and the effect it will have on Zoe.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By doctor_beth #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 9, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Berg is a master at telling stories of family drama, and Say When is one of her best books. At the start of the novel, Griffin suspects that something is going on with his wife, Ellen, a sometimes odd woman with a tendency towards sadness. However, he is stunned when she informs him that she his having an affair and wants a divorce. When Griffin refuses to leave the house, they suddenly find themselves negotiating the care of their 8-year old daughter, Zoe, while living as merely roommates.
The fact that the story is told from the husband's point of view is refreshing, as is the fact that there are no bad guys here--both Griffin and Ellen are nice people who have made some mistakes. Furthermore, both are good parents to Zoe, and their interactions with their child are completely realistic as well as touching. In the midst of his domestic turmoil, Griffin gets a job as a mall Santa during the Christmas season, and his conversations with his many young visitors also ring true. The plot is simple yet never predictable, easily engaging the reader in a comfortable way. Overall, this is a delightful little book about marriage, family life, and second chances.
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Berg is a wonderful novelist with an uncanny way of writing about life's quiet, everyday moments--the ones that make up the fiber of life. I loved True to Form, Never Change, and Open House, and also her novels featuring the young female character first introduced in Durable Goods. SAY WHEN, her new novel, is exquisite. It takes on a subject so many of us have had touch our lives in some way--infidelity--and examines not only what it can do to a marriage, but to a family, and to a husband in particular. Moving, beautiful writing and a thought-provoking message--I can't say enough about this book. Just terrific!
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Mary Gibbins on June 20, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I love ALL of Berg's work and this book is no exception. Not knowing that she had a new book out, I practically jumped up and down when I saw it on the New Release shelf at our local library. The twist for Berg is that the novel is written from a male perspective. So it was really, really interesting to feel like I was spying on the Male Mind in its most intimate moments. We're all accustomed to the stories where the man has an affair, the woman suffers, the woman grows strong, yadda yadda yadda. In "Say When," it's the woman who has an affair and we experience the man's tangled emotions and thoughts throughout the story. Even for those in happy marriages, there is much truth in the husband's memories of the marriage and in the character dialogue. As soon as I finished it, I laid it on my husband's nightstand so he can read it too.
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