In a way, my situation reminded me of a little girl I’d once seen exiting a roller coaster at a state fair, all wide eyes and pale face and shaky knees. When her brother asked if she’d like to ride again, she said, “not until I’m way readier.” I felt myself trapped in line for a ride I was not nearly ready for, looking back but moving forward in the only direction I could go. -From The Year of Pleasures, page 5 –
How do we move forward when all we want to do is stand still? How do we overcome our grief in order to find joy again? These are the central questions which rise from the pages of Elizabeth Berg’s wonderful novel The Year Of Pleasures.
The story revolves around a middle aged woman, Betta Nolan, who finds herself suddenly without her beloved husband, John. As the book progresses, the reader is carried along on Betta’s journey of rediscovery. She moves from Boston to a small town in Illinois where she learns that some friendships never die and the slow rhythm of life can open new doors to self-fulfillment. The characters between the pages of this book simply shine – Bennie, the ten year old who lives next door; Matthew, the twenty something college kid; Lydia, an elderly woman with her own deeply embedded painful memories; the three wild women friends from Betta’s college years; and finally, John. The reader never meets John before his death, and yet his character comes alive in the novel through the tiny scraps of paper he leaves behind in a cigar box, and ultimately through Betta’s memories of him.
Berg has a wonderful gift – she is able to wrap a story around the reader like a warm blanket on a cold night. Her ability to show the depth of women’s friendships and the pleasure in simple things is amazing. With attention to detail and flawless dialogue, Berg is able to transport the reader into the lives of her characters. As most of her books do, this one had me laughing and crying and wishing it would never end.