EXCERPT: Helen’s husband, Dan, died suddenly eleven months and three days ago, dropping his coffee cup and sliding almost noiselessly out of his kitchen chair and onto the floor. Helen, who’d been standing at the sink, still feels guilty about yelling at him for breaking his cup before she turned to see him sprawled on his back, his eyes wide open and startled looking. She believes the last thing Dan felt was surprise, and to her way of thinking, it wasn’t a bad way to go. The bad part is he left her here without him, ignorant of, . . . oh, everything.
ABOUT HOME SAFE: In this novel, beloved bestselling author Elizabeth Berg weaves a beautifully written and richly resonant story of a mother and daughter in emotional transit. Helen Ames–recently widowed, coping with loss and grief, unable to do the work that has always sustained her–is beginning to depend far too much on her twenty-seven-year-old daughter, Tessa, and is meddling in her life, offering unsolicited and unwelcome advice. Helen’s problems are compounded by her shocking discovery that her mild-mannered and loyal husband was apparently leading a double life. The Ameses had painstakingly saved for a happy retirement, but that money disappeared in several large withdrawals made by Helen’s husband before he died. In order to support herself and garner a measure of much needed independence, Helen takes an unusual job that ends up offering far more than she had anticipated. And then a phone call from a stranger sets Helen on a surprising path of discovery that causes both mother and daughter to reassess what they thought they knew about each other, themselves, and what really makes a home and a family.
MY THOUGHTS: It’s a long time since I have read anything by Elizabeth Berg. My mum and I used to share this author, discussing our latest read over coffee and scones (my mum made the best scones, I miss them) or lunch out at some cafe or other. This is the first book I have picked up by this author since my mother passed away some years ago. I haven’t consciously avoided them, I just haven’t even thought about them, which is kind of strange. But on the plus side, look at all the wonderful titles I have to catch up on!
Berg writes quietly, with compassion, tenderness, empathy and flashes of humor. I have heard people comment, ‘But nothing happens!’ But in fact a lot happens. Just because there’s not a lot of ‘action’ doesn’t mean nothing is happening.
Home Safe is an intimate novel, not in a sexual sense, but in the context that we get to know Helen intimately; her frustrations, her disappointments, her fears, her achievements, her hopes and dreams. We watch her grow as a person after Dan’s sudden death, to learn that she can survive, even flourish, without him, that she has untapped strengths and potentials that come to light as her life takes her in new directions.
Helen starts out as a not very likeable character; whiny and insecure with not an ounce of common sense! She calls the police in the early hours of the morning when there is water dripping from a bulge in her ceiling and the sheer number of plumbers in the yellow pages overwhelms her! She is needy, almost pathetically so, but I do love her snarky side! You know those unkind thoughts we have sometimes that none of us like to admit to? Yeah, those.
Without the buffer of Dan between them, Helen and daughter Tessa are forced to realign their relationship. Helen has been an overbearing mother, Tessa a dismissive daughter, Dan the conduit between them.
And there is the mystery of the missing money. What did Dan do with the $850,000 he withdrew from the investment account? Paradoxically, it is this money that Helen no longer has that saves her from herself.
I love this quote from the Wichita Sunday Eagle – ‘A beautifully written and richly resonant story of a mother and daughter in emotional transit.’ That sums it up beautifully.
This is a lovely read written with Berg’s trademark warmth and humour, her wry observations guaranteed to bring a smile to the face and a better understanding of our own characters.
THE AUTHOR: Elizabeth Berg is an American novelist. Berg was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA, and lived in Boston prior to her residence in Chicago. She studied English and Humanities at the University of Minnesota, but later ended up with a nursing degree. (Wikipedia)
DISCLOSURE: I listened to the audiobook of Home Safe written and narrated by Elizabeth Berg, published by Random House Audio, via Overdrive. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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