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Next Avenue Online Journal

Next Avenue is a nonprofit journalism website. Next Avenue is extending an invitation to share your story (for those over the age of 50). We are seeking original essays with an insightful perspective on aging. Every day on Next Avenue, we tell the stories of what makes us different and where we share commonalities. It is our hope that readers will glimpse themselves in someone else’s story; find a nugget of information they need; or discover a fresh perspective on an issue relative to aging. We’re looking for insightful essays that illuminate a truth or teach us something new. As the pandemic persists, and life continues to swirl around all of us in unexpected ways, perspective has taken center stage. You may have discovered there has been more space for quiet, like the calm in the center of the storm. Perhaps the quiet is not always welcome, but it is…

Book Reviews

The Dream Lover

In The Dream Lover, Elizabeth Berg imagines the life of Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin (better known as the writer, George Sand) from childhood to her last days. In her captivating style of writing, Elizabeth explores the difficulties of being a woman in a man’s world in the 1800’s. Elizabeth departs from her previous writing style of using fiction as a vehicle to tackle important subjects to using a real person as the starting point to begin this novel, based on true stories. Elizabeth explains how she came to write The Dream Lover, “One day, while reading The Writer’s Almanac, I came across some very intriguing facts about the life of Aurore Dudevant, who took the pen name George Sand when she began publishing novels. Given that her life seemed to be so interesting, so dramatic, I wanted to read a novel about her—I prefer reading novels to biographies, because fiction…

Book Reviews

The Last Time I Saw You

The Last Time I Saw You by Elizabeth Berg is a shift from her previous books. We follow along as former classmates make decisions to attend or not attend their fortieth high school reunion. Some attend reluctantly, others hope for a second chance at connections and love. Not much goes as planned. The surprises are unpredictable and there are happy-ever-afters. Elizabeth Berg has this to say about The Last Time I Saw You: “I write novels for different reasons. Sometimes it’s my attempt to understand a certain issue or point of view. Sometimes it’s to pay tribute to someone or some thing. Sometimes it’s to explore relationships. Sometimes it’s all of the above. I also wanted to look at the nature of nostalgia. I wanted to show how sobering a realization it can be to understand that one is entering old age; and I also wanted to show the value…

Book Reviews

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted And Other Small Acts of Liberation by Elizabeth Berg is another well-written book by Elizabeth. This work of fiction opens with: “I began at Dunkin’ Donuts. I hadn’t gone there since I started Weight Watchers a year ago because I had to lose weight; my doctor made me go. I could have switched doctors, but who needs it with all the forms you have to fill out if you switch. You just wish there were a central headquarters with all your information that you write out once so that everyone who needs anything could tap into it.” Isn’t that the truth! The Day . . . gets better and better with each from-the-heart story. “The Day I Ate Nothing I Even Remotely Wanted” might be my favorite chapter. “I began with coffee and skim milk. So you know what drinking coffee with skim…

Book Reviews

The Art of Mending

The Art of Mending is such a thought-full title. I like how it rolls off my tongue, offering hope for whatever needs fixing. Mending: An old-fashioned word. Who mends these days? And yet, it’s a comforting word much like the stories that Elizabeth Berg unravels, then pulls together with a satisfactory ending. Elizabeth Berg is skilled with weaving words together thoughtfully and with purpose, causing me to pause and enjoy the scene as it unfolds. I read slowly and savor her exquisite writing. “There are random moments—tossing a salad, coming up the driveway to the house, ironing the seams flat on a quilt square, standing at the kitchen window and looking out at the delphiniums, hearing a burst of laughter from one of my children’s rooms—when I feel a wavelike rush of joy. This is my true religion: arbitrary moments of nearly painful happiness for a life I feel privileged…

Book Reviews

True to Form

True to Form by Elizabeth Berg. Elizabeth Berg has a unique ability to create characters who could live down the block, or they could be characters who peopled my growing up years. Berg’s writing style draws in readers to nuances and complex relationships, revealed through subtle actions and detailed dialogue. Her characters face the consequences of their decisions in ways that are remarkable because they are so familiar and yet told with such grace and eloquence that the story seems fresh and heretofore untold. It is such a pleasure to read an Elizabeth Berg Book.

Book Reviews

Joy School

Elizabeth Berg creates characters so lovable you want them to solve their problems and live happily ever after. Joy School’s Katie is adorable. Her growing pains are palpable and yet she carries on with admirable determination. Berg’s story endings are satisfying, leaving the reader hopeful for a better future and an improved world. Excerpted from the end of Joy School: “Now a cold wind blows suddenly, pushes my hair across my face and I get to see everything in slats. I put my hands deep in my pockets, find Jimmy’s stone. I take it out and look at it. It’s a pretty thing . . . I put the stone against my face, right where he touched me. And then I fling it far out into the pond. . . I didn’t mean to throw it. I wish I hadn’t done that. I’m cold. I start for home. Winter will…

Book Reviews

Durable Goods

I spent the summer of 2019 re-reading books by Elizabeth Berg, reminding me of my pre-teen summers when I read Nancy Drew books. Like the Nancy Drew books, Berg’s writing also transports me from my world to fictional worlds. I suppose Durable Goods, published in 1993, can be considered an oldie but goodie. It has a timelessness quality covering issues many face: a difficult home life, the challenges of growing up (changing bodies, confusing emotions, loyalties and betrayals, friends, commitment, making and losing connections with one another). — Marlene Cullen, The Write Spot Blog, editor, The Write Spot anthologies “Elizabeth Berg writes with humor and a big heart about resilience, loneliness, love, and hope. And the transcendence that redeems.” —Andre Dubus

Prompts

Tapestry of Fortunes Inspired . . . Prompt #439

I’m spending this summer re-reading Elizabeth Berg’s books. Perhaps I’m trying to recreate the summers of my pre-teen years. After morning chores, afternoons were mine to do what I wanted. I walked to the library every Saturday and checked out an armload of books. Starting with the letter A in the children’s section, I worked my way around the room. I don’t remember what letter I was on when I abandoned the children’s section for adult fiction, upstairs in the grand and austere room, seeped with old-world charm, burnished wood stair railings, mahogany wainscoting, heavy oak chairs, and of course stacks and stacks of books. Those were the days of hushed voices and the librarian whispering shhhhh, pointer finger over pursed lips. This summer, I’m enjoying the cool breeze from a portable fan while Berg’s characters march and dance through my head. Here is an excerpt from Tapestry of Fortunes from pages 7 and 8:…

Book Reviews

We Are All Welcome Here

Elizabeth Berg is uniquely talented to be able to write in many different authentic voices. We Are All Welcome Here is a perfect example of her capabilities as an extraordinary writer. Berg skillfully weaves a tender story about Paige, paralyzed from the neck down, and her strength in raising her daughter, Diana, with the help of her “tough-talking black caregiver,” Peacie. Each character’s voice is unique as if Berg has inhabited their bodies and their minds to get into their psyche. Published in 2006, the story takes place in Tupelo, Mississippi in 1964. The story line is still relevant today: “As tensions mount over civil-rights demonstrations across the state, fourteen-year-old Diana is trying to live a normal life. She wants to make money for clothes and magazines, to figure out the puzzle that is boys, and to escape the oppressiveness she sees everywhere in her small town.” — Back cover…