Between the Covers: Stories from My Bookcase

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Open House by Elizabeth Berg


Photo Apr 15, 11 12 40 AM

I finished reading this novel two weeks ago. I picked it up very soon after the last one and read through quickly. Quite an easy read really. It’s very emotional in the sense that the main character Samantha goes through a big life change, yet it wasn’t very heavy to read.

Here’s the book description from Amazon:

In this superb novel by the beloved author of Talk Before Sleep, The Pull of the Moon, and Until the Real Thing Comes Along, a woman re-creates her life after divorce by opening up her house and her heart.
Samantha's husband has left her, and after a spree of overcharging at Tiffany's, she settles down to reconstruct a life for herself and her eleven-year-old son. Her eccentric mother tries to help by fixing her up with dates, but a more pressing problem is money. To meet her mortgage payments, Sam decides to take in boarders. The first is an older woman who offers sage advice and sorely needed comfort; the second, a maladjusted student, is not quite so helpful. A new friend, King, an untraditional man, suggests that Samantha get out, get going, get work. But her real work is this: In order to emerge from grief and the past, she has to learn how to make her own happiness. In order to really see people, she has to look within her heart. And in order to know who she is, she has to remember—and reclaim—the person she used to be, long before she became someone else in an effort to save her marriage.
Open House is a love story about what can blossom between a man and a woman, and within a woman herself.

Samantha, in the beginning, was more willing to welcome strangers to her home rather than say goodbye to her estranged husband. Even when her best friend tells her that she is better off without him, she doesn’t realize that right away. Sam is a classic example of how many of us lose our identity when we find ourselves attached to a relationship. This isn’t always the fault of our partners of course. I think it goes both ways. How do we continue to assert ourselves? How are our partners aware of our transformation, and how do they react to it?

In the end, if Sam’s ex came back and said he likes that Sam is getting her old self back – the Sam he first fell in love with – maybe the book would have ended differently. But no. He came back and couldn’t give a single acceptable reason; he misses what she does for him, not what he loves about her.

Sam reminds us that we should never stop the journey to the best person we can be. She shows us that every once in a while we need to open up in order to get perspective. We need to let others in, so we can see ourselves more.

In a way, Open House reminds me of The Year of Pleasures

I love Elizabeth Berg’s style. I’ve read her other titles and look forward to reading more.