Elizabeth Berg has become one of my favorite authors. I have read two of her books lately - one originally published in 1994, and her newest, released in April. Both books deal with a tender subject - the death of a best friend.
My closest friend was a lady named Wanda. When we met in 1990, she had already been battling cancer for several years. Our friendship grew as I drove her to weekly chemo treatments. She passed away in 2004. These books hit close to home for me - so close that I'm amazed I actually finished them. But I"m so glad I did. Ms. Berg has a way of encapsulating exactly what I'm thinking and feeling into a few, beautiful words.
Talk Before Sleep
Only best friends understand devil's food cake for breakfast when nothing else will do. After years of shared secrets, guilty pleasures, family life and divorce, they face a crisis that redefines the meaning of friendship and unconditional love.
A wise and funny novel about two women who share the closest bonds of friendship. When one is diagnosed with cancer, their conversations begin to go deeper into the truths of women's lives. My favorite quote:
How is it that we dare to honk at others in traffic when we know nothing about where they have just come from or where they are on their way to?
Tapestry of Fortunes
Cecilia Ross is a motivational speaker who encourages others to change their lives for the better. Still reeling from the death of her best friend, and freshly aware of the need to live more fully now, Cece realizes that she has to make a move. She downsizes her life, sells her suburban Minnesota home and lets go of many of her possessions. She moves into a beautiful old house in Saint Paul, complete with a garden, chef’s kitchen, and three housemates: Lise, the home’s owner and a divorced mother at odds with her twenty-year-old daughter; Joni, a top-notch sous chef at a first-rate restaurant with a grade A jerk of a boss; and Renie, the youngest and most mercurial of the group, who is trying to rectify a teenage mistake. These women embark on a journey together in an attempt to connect with parts of themselves long denied. Favorite quotes:
I like friendly people like this who immediately make you feel welcome and quite pleased to be yourself.
There's a flat-screen TV, a fireplace with a blue stone surround that looks like lapis lazuli, and an overcrowded bookcase, my favorite kind.
Two books by the same author, dealing with the same theme, yet very different stories and perspectives - Talk Before Sleep takes the friendship through diagnosis and the process of loss. Tapestry of Fortunes focuses on recovering after the loss of a friend. For me, it was a coincidence to pick them up so close together. I am curious if Ms. Berg made a deliberate choice to return to the subject nearly twenty years later. And if so, why? Both books get my biggest thumbs up - plus a 2-hankie warning.