A fifty-year-old Bridge game provides an unexpected way to cross the generational divide between a daughter and her mother. Betsy Lerner takes us on a powerfully personal literary journey, where we learn a little about Bridge and a lot about life.
After a lifetime defining herself in contrast to her mother’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” generation, Lerner finds herself back in her childhood home, not five miles from the mother she spent decades avoiding. When Roz needs help after surgery, it falls to Betsy to take care of her. She expected a week of tense civility; what she got instead were the Bridge Ladies. Impressed by their loyalty, she saw something her generation lacked. Facebook was great, but it wouldn’t deliver a pot roast.
Tentatively at first, Betsy becomes a regular at her mother’s Monday Bridge club. Through her friendships with the ladies, she is finally able to face years of misunderstandings and family tragedy, the Bridge table becoming the common ground she and Roz never had.
By turns darkly funny and deeply moving, The Bridge Ladies is the unforgettable story of a hard-won—but never-too-late—bond between mother and daughter.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
What fun to be invited into the condos and conversations of four Jewish 80-somethings with a passion for cards, lipstick, and kugel. For the past 55 years, Betsy Lerner’s mother has played bridge every Monday with the same group of women in New Haven, Conn. Growing up, Lerner shunned the Bridge Ladies for their traditional views and decorum. But as an adult, she decides to take bridge lessons, join her mother’s gatherings, and interview the participants about their lives. The result is a funny, sad, and page-turning story about a mother and daughter finally seeing each other with clear eyes.
This absorbing memoir by literary agent and author Lerner (The Forest for the Trees) is about the game of bridge, but it's also about bridging gaps both the generational gap and the "personal gulf" that had defined Lerner's relationship with her mother. At age 54, due to her husband's job relocation, Lerner finds herself back in her hometown of New Haven, Conn., where her 83-year-old widowed mother still resides. Hoping to repair at least some of the rifts between them, she somewhat reluctantly re-enters her mother's life and begins attending her Monday afternoon bridge game, first as an observer and later after taking lessons at the Manhattan Bridge Club as an occasional participant. Along with descriptions of her bridge lessons, Lerner shares the histories of the elegantly dressed New Haven ladies who have met weekly for 55 years, women who came of age in the 1940s and '50s. As Lerner probes marriage, career, motherhood, postpartum depression, aging, death, assisted living, dementia, widowhood, religion, and sex, she discovers that although her mother and her bridge companions differ in some ways from her own generation (for example, they felt that marriage to a Jewish man trumped pursuing a career), they share common values of love and kinship. She also draws closer to her mother, gaining a deeper understanding of her interior life, including the rarely discussed childhood death of Lerner's sister. This beautifully written, bittersweet story of ladies of a certain age and era will have wide appeal.
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Tackling a memoir is hit or miss. I've read incredibly boring ones, some that were pleasantly enjoyable, and occasionally a true hit, like the Bridge Ladies.
Inspired me to imagine taking lessons. My mother was a life master at 32--I was five. She still reports to "work" daily. My dad explains it has helped them be married 64 years.