Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Book Review: Once Upon a Time, There Was You

Many years ago, I read a book by Elizabeth Berg that I didn't enjoy and I've been avoiding her books ever since. After reading Once Upon a Time, There Was You, I've realized that was a mistake and I'm excited to read her extensive list of other works.

In this book, Berg captures that particular angst of being an eighteen-year-old girl lucky enough to be overprotected and loved by her parents. It will be years before Sadie understands she was lucky. For now, she is just desperate to get her life started and have it belong to her.

The novel alternates third person narratives, allowing the reader to identify with each of the three main characters: Sadie and her parents, John and Irene. When Irene resolves to have a conversation with her daughter in which she finally just listens, the reader is both frustrated by her and heartbroken for her when she fails, launching nearly immediately into a lecture.

The age range of these characters makes it appealing for a broad audience. You don't have to be eighteen if you remember being eighteen; you don't have to be a parent if you've had one. The peripheral characters are also expertly drawn, giving other examples of how people figure out how to love and be loved.

At one point, family friend Henry becomes aggravated with how hard Sadie is on her parents:

"Oh listen, Sadie. You know who does it right? You know who does loving right?"



And that's the main message of the book. We may not do it right, but most of us are trying.

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