Once Upon a Time, There was You.

And here we are at yet another book blog: today’s culprit, Elizabeth Berg (and maybe Rodney Jones if I can get it together and finish his poetry book).

Don’t worry a surprise is coming after this weekend still, once I get everything together for it.  This is just a breather blog. Plus, I have a deadline on this review.  Thanks to Random House for letting me have this galley early release.

Once Upon a Time, There was You

Elizabeth Berg is the romance writer hiding behind the veil of the sophisticated, NY Times Bestselling Author.  This is the same with Nick Sparks (who roomed with one of the swim team dad’s in college that I used to semi-coach and swim for, for most of my life)…interesting world.  The roommate/dad didn’t seem at all romantic, when of course, we all imagine Nick Sparks brings his wife Saturday breakfast in bed every week, and comes home with different flowers daily after thinking about new ways to rub her feet (foreign ways and all).

I feel the same way about Elizabeth Berg.  The title of her newest book, Once Upon a Time, There Was You, obviously gives away that it’s going to be a romantic tale about past times coming together in the future.  What you don’t expect is an abduction, a half-hearted reunion, and a few gay chef’s thrown in.  Honestly, and personally, I thought this book had way too much baggage shoved into it.  Two divorced parents come together for their daughter after a serious, terrifying thing happens to her.  Yet, most of the book has nothing to do with the daughter’s recovery and much more to do with the ex-wife’s overbearingness and the husband’s good-dad skills.  The daughter makes a few rash decisions after her experience, but she deserves much more of a presence in this novel.

I think my biggest problem with this book is that it comes on the coat-tails of the interviews with Jaycee Duggard, and her book being published.  I think this may be just poor timing, but the idea that a character in a novel is abducted (although not nearly as horrible, not even close to Duggard’s experience) just rubs me the wrong way.  I think her publishing company should’ve maybe waited a bit longer in publishing this book at such an early time. It’s like if you started making Amy Winehouse jokes right now (it may be too early for some people), heck Michael Jackson is too early for some people.  I just think that a book that trivializes abduction the way Berg has done in this book is distasteful.

I’m usually not one for romance books, or cheap chick-lit to make women wonder about their own personal lives, but I’ve seen Elizabeth Berg’s name everywhere (her last book has an air balloon on the cover which made me especially interested) and so, I decided to give her a try when I read the galley synopsis.  I think not knowing Berg, and not being familiar with her work will inevitably hurt my review of this book.

Obviously, I thought it was chick-lit, and I thought it was using women against themselves.  I don’t like it when books encourage women to either a. be against each other or b. be against men.  I understand that there’s a whole genre of this in the book world, but I just can’t get into books like those.  A book isn’t going to tell you that your marriage isn’t okay, you have to feel that within yourself, and think for yourself, and between the two of you, what you’re going to do about it.  I think this book encouraged this at one point, but ripped the whole idea a part during the rest of the novel.

Personal Story: One of my friends got married a few months ago.  Just a random girl I had known growing up, and being in her inside circle, I was aware that she had been cheated on by her fiance.  Through most of the after-cheat she didn’t really discuss it with anyone, even though she only told a few people, and not even her parents are aware of it at this point.  For a while, I was really pissed at her for not going feminist-rogue and breaking up with his cheating ass.  I was upset that she would just put herself back into a situation with a man who obviously didn’t love her.  So, he was drunk, is that even an excuse?  I know lots of college boys use it to woo their girlfriends in the hallways of their dorm stories, but let’s be honest, being drunk isn’t an excuse.  Why’d you put yourself in that situation? (woo, rant).  Anyway, they are now happily married, there for each other, wonderful from my outside perspective and even knowing him a bit better has given me a bit of a reality check on these situations.  It was honestly, none of my business what she was going to do.  She knew he was the one, she always told me that.  When I was having troubles in a previous relationship she told me, “I think people just know, I believe in just knowing.”  It was a moment of clarity for me because so many people had been trying to give me advice, and telling me their perspective, and pushing their views around the bubble of my decision and she just told me how it was.  She just said, “I believe in just knowing.”  And I didn’t know.  I didn’t know a damn thing, I wasn’t sure on this man, or my life, or my path (and maybe we never are).

So, I got out, and I got happy.

That’s all you can do.  In my friend’s case, she stayed in and made happiness between her and her partner.  Her PARTNER, not her husband, because that is what a life together should be.  (At least in my humble, non-married opinion).

The moral of this story is that, you don’t know about what is happening in anyone else’s relationship.  You don’t know how they’re fixing it, if they can fix it, why they want to fix it, etc.  You just have to let them be who they are and do what they love.

I think only one character does this in the book, Valerie – the best friend.  And although her small, side-story about cheating is completely out of her character and completely unbelievable, I still enjoyed it every time her character came into the more prominent story line to either give advice, or install a moment of clarity.  That’s how I like my female characters to be; strong and supportive.  I think she may be the only character that I really liked throughout this whole book.  Amy, I liked, but she’s a whole other style of woman I think, a likable style, but not my style persay.

I can recommend this book as a beach read, as a just starting winter, curl up in your blanket with cocoa and marshmellows read.  I can recommend it in bed, at night, right before you say your prayers and are thinking about your life and the compass within it all.

But beyond that, it’s just another book, with more unsatisfied female characters.

Here is my favorite quote:

  • “I believe in bringing home rocks from every place I visited and loved, because I think rocks hold within them an essence of place, and that you can feel this essence – and therefore the place – if you hold the rock tightly in your hand.” (Berg)

Here is Berg’s website.

Here are a few other blogs about this book since my review was less than favorable:

I really like Berg as a woman from what I can tell from various interviews.  It’s like following Sarah Dessen on twitter who only talks about her child, errands, and cooking, but I love it none the less. She (and Berg from what I can tell) have the life of a “normal” (by normal, I mean society’s expectations about what a woman should be) woman, who happens to be a best-selling novelist.

5 thoughts on “Once Upon a Time, There was You.

  1. Michael Ann Riley says:

    I was very interested to read this, as Elizabeth Berg is one of my favorite authors. Having said that, I do feel in almost each of her books, there is an air of predictability, which is quite alright most of the time, and her characters don’t always ring true. But I do love her stories and the thoughts about marriage/life that she expresses through her characters. I have many of her quotes like the one above, written in a little notebook! It’s really neat that you reference other review sites as well.

    Thanks and great job! I love how you weave stories from your own life into your reviews too.

    Michael Ann

    • Cassie says:

      Thanks! Are there any really wonderful quotes you can share? I have a notebook like that with quotes from all kinds of books. I love it. I love that you do it as well.

      Can you recommend any really hood Berg books as well?

  2. Bea Mannes says:

    I love that you have figured out that someone else’s relationship is theirs to have, to keep, or to set free. It is so true that no one knows what goes on between two people, but those same two people. She or he stay together for reasons that they know, or they seperate for reasons that they both know. So, all we can do as friends or family, is let them be.
    With all that said, this book may have something to say, especially since your review has reminded all of us of some very important truths.


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