“BERG KNOWS THE HEARTS OF HER CHARACTERS INTIMATELY, showing them with compassion, humor, and an illuminating generosity.”
–The Seattle Times
“BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN . . . [Ginny Young] crosses the country for a reluctant reunion with the mother she has not seen in 35 years. During the long hours of her flight, she returns in memory to the summer when she turned 12 and her family turned inside out. . . . What We Keep is about ties that are buried but not broken, wounds that are dressed but never heal, and love that changes form but somehow survives.”
“COMPELLING . . . Reading [this] book is like having an intimate conversation with a friend who is baring her soul.”
–Charleston Post and Courier
“TOUCHING . . . WHAT WE KEEP IS SOMETHING OF VALUE.”
–San Antonio Express-News
BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Elizabeth Berg's Once Upon a Time, There Was You.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The relationship between a mother and daughter can be beautiful, frustrating, and complicated—as veteran novelist Elizabeth Berg clearly understands. Her novel centers around fiftysomething Ginny, who hasn’t spoken to her mother, Marion, since she was a teenager. But when Ginny’s terminally ill sister requests that her family reunite, Ginny reluctantly agrees. As she flies across the country, Ginny reminisces about her childhood and the mysterious bohemian her mother befriended before the family split apart, but when she finally reconnects with her mother it becomes clear she never knew the full story. Berg’s smooth, dialogue-heavy writing makes What We Keep a quick read you could easily finish in a weekend, but the story’s themes of memory and loss will stick with you for a long while.
"I don't like my mother. She's not a good person." So declares Ginny Young on a trip to California to visit her mother, Marion, whom she hasn't seen in 35 years. Ginny is only making the trip as a favor to her sister, Sharla, who has called to say she's awaiting the results of a cancer test. In flashback, Berg (Talk Before Sleep) revisits the events of the girls' childhood and the moments when their mother's problems began to reveal themselves. One night, Ginny and Sharla overhear their mother screaming at their father about her unhappiness and telling him that she never wanted children. Then she walks out with no explanations, returning briefly a few months later to explain that she's not coming back. The following years bring occasional visits that are impossibly painful for all concerned and so full of buried anger that the girls decide to curtail them altogether. When Sharla meets Ginny (now a mother herself) at the airport, and the two see their mother again, there are surprises in store, but not especially shocking ones. The reader, in fact, may feel there is less here than meets the eye: Marion's flight is never made psychologically credible. Berg's customary skill in rendering domestic details is intact, but the story seems stitched together. Crucial scenes feel highlighted rather than fleshed out, and Ginny's bitterness disappears into thin air as she reaches a facile, sentimental conclusion about her mother's needs. BOMC selection; author tour.