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The Art of Mending

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It begins with the sudden revelation of astonishing secrets—secrets that have shaped the personalities and fates of three siblings, and now threaten to tear them apart. In renowned author Elizabeth Berg’s moving new novel, unearthed truths force one seemingly ordinary family to reexamine their disparate lives and to ask themselves: Is it too late to mend the hurts of the p It begins with the sudden revelation of astonishing secrets—secrets that have shaped the personalities and fates of three siblings, and now threaten to tear them apart. In renowned author Elizabeth Berg’s moving new novel, unearthed truths force one seemingly ordinary family to reexamine their disparate lives and to ask themselves: Is it too late to mend the hurts of the past? Laura Bartone anticipates her annual family reunion in Minnesota with a mixture of excitement and wariness. Yet this year’s gathering will prove to be much more trying than either she or her siblings imagined. As soon as she arrives, Laura realizes that something is not right with her sister. Forever wrapped up in events of long ago, Caroline is the family’s restless black sheep. When Caroline confronts Laura and their brother, Steve, with devastating allegations about their mother, the three have a difficult time reconciling their varying experiences in the same house. But a sudden misfortune will lead them all to face the past, their own culpability, and their common need for love and forgiveness. Readers have come to love Elizabeth Berg for the “lucent beauty of [her] prose, the verity of her insights, and the tenderness of her regard for her fellow human” (Booklist). In The Art of Mending, her most profound and emotionally satisfying novel to date, she confronts some of the deepest mysteries of life, as she explores how even the largest sins can be forgiven by the smallest gestures, and how grace can come to many through the trials of one. From the Hardcover edition.


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It begins with the sudden revelation of astonishing secrets—secrets that have shaped the personalities and fates of three siblings, and now threaten to tear them apart. In renowned author Elizabeth Berg’s moving new novel, unearthed truths force one seemingly ordinary family to reexamine their disparate lives and to ask themselves: Is it too late to mend the hurts of the p It begins with the sudden revelation of astonishing secrets—secrets that have shaped the personalities and fates of three siblings, and now threaten to tear them apart. In renowned author Elizabeth Berg’s moving new novel, unearthed truths force one seemingly ordinary family to reexamine their disparate lives and to ask themselves: Is it too late to mend the hurts of the past? Laura Bartone anticipates her annual family reunion in Minnesota with a mixture of excitement and wariness. Yet this year’s gathering will prove to be much more trying than either she or her siblings imagined. As soon as she arrives, Laura realizes that something is not right with her sister. Forever wrapped up in events of long ago, Caroline is the family’s restless black sheep. When Caroline confronts Laura and their brother, Steve, with devastating allegations about their mother, the three have a difficult time reconciling their varying experiences in the same house. But a sudden misfortune will lead them all to face the past, their own culpability, and their common need for love and forgiveness. Readers have come to love Elizabeth Berg for the “lucent beauty of [her] prose, the verity of her insights, and the tenderness of her regard for her fellow human” (Booklist). In The Art of Mending, her most profound and emotionally satisfying novel to date, she confronts some of the deepest mysteries of life, as she explores how even the largest sins can be forgiven by the smallest gestures, and how grace can come to many through the trials of one. From the Hardcover edition.

30 review for The Art of Mending

  1. 4 out of 5

    Logophile

    At a family reunion, quilt-maker Laura Bartone discovers a horrible family secret from her odd and difficult younger sister Caroline. Although this novel had moments of emotional resonance, there were far too many moments that felt like simply padding, arbitrary and irrelevant to the story. For instance, the details about a dog quilt that Laura is making for a client who is not even named or seen in the novel seemed entirely superfluous, as did the discussion about the hypochondria of a friend's At a family reunion, quilt-maker Laura Bartone discovers a horrible family secret from her odd and difficult younger sister Caroline. Although this novel had moments of emotional resonance, there were far too many moments that felt like simply padding, arbitrary and irrelevant to the story. For instance, the details about a dog quilt that Laura is making for a client who is not even named or seen in the novel seemed entirely superfluous, as did the discussion about the hypochondria of a friend's partner who similarly never makes an appearance. Some offhand observations, such as how Laura's fabric collection, like a hardware store, is satisfying in its completeness, "because everything is there," would have been nicer if they had more relevance to the story. Although some of Laura's relationships were lifelike and realistic, the pastiche of Laura's life never meshed into an organic whole. Laura seems to be on the one hand a good person, a good wife and mother, leading an idyllic life, and on the other a seriously flawed and emotionally inadequate sister. How did she get from point A to point B? This story from sister Caroline's point of view would have made a much more interesting novel. Most annoying to me were old-fashioned, sexist assumptions about men's and women's natures and gender roles, which turned everyone into a caricature: men who can't talk about their emotions, the really good woman friend who you can share everything with, the ebullient and effusive gay man who runs the fabric store and is going on vacation to—where else?—San Francisco. It's almost as if Elizabeth Berg only had the time or resources to flesh out the relationships central to the plot and everyone else was just a stand-in. Such cheap stereotypes kept me from becoming involved in what was a plot that should have struck very close to home.

  2. 5 out of 5

    leslie hamod

    A beautifully written creative story from author Elizabeth Berg. Laura is an artist in her own right. She created intricate quilts. She has made a good life although she feels somehow off. Her family reunion in Minnesota may answer her questions. She anticipates it with both excitement and exhilaration. She will see her siblings. Things come to pass on this trip. Things which explain her feelings. What happened in her youth? What do her siblings know? An incredible plot, typical a A beautifully written creative story from author Elizabeth Berg. Laura is an artist in her own right. She created intricate quilts. She has made a good life although she feels somehow off. Her family reunion in Minnesota may answer her questions. She anticipates it with both excitement and exhilaration. She will see her siblings. Things come to pass on this trip. Things which explain her feelings. What happened in her youth? What do her siblings know? An incredible plot, typical and beautiful as all Elizabeth Berg'sh's creations are! An emotional and sensitive topic. Her characters are more than imagined, they are real. Perhaps, though, they are unlikable. She presents a wonderfully crafted plot. This is overall a sinful read! I highly recommend it! A MUST READ!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Pamela

    “I think it’s good to take time to fix something rather than throw it away . . . You’ll always notice the fabric scar, of course, but there’s an art to mending: if you’re careful the repair can actually add to the beauty of the thing, because it is testimony to its worth.” An Elizabeth Berg novel is chocolate for the soul. She is a wonderfully gifted writer with the endearing ability to recognize and express idiosyncrasies, frailties, and strengths of relationships through simple yet “I think it’s good to take time to fix something rather than throw it away . . . You’ll always notice the fabric scar, of course, but there’s an art to mending: if you’re careful the repair can actually add to the beauty of the thing, because it is testimony to its worth.” An Elizabeth Berg novel is chocolate for the soul. She is a wonderfully gifted writer with the endearing ability to recognize and express idiosyncrasies, frailties, and strengths of relationships through simple yet profound analogies; building upon common people, places or things she paints beautiful word pictures of the human experience – with all of its trials and tribulations, joys and wonders. “People living with people make for conflict. The truth is, we’re not such a peaceful species. But the good news about conflict is that if you get through it you’re stronger. “ “The Art of Mending” (as with other Berg novel’s I've read) is written in a simple style; simple in the way that a cabin on a lake is simple. No grandiose ornamentation or echelon formalities; just straightforward storytelling about common people, places and things. She does however give one much to ponder upon. And delightfully, no matter the seriousness of atmosphere or topic, she usually finds a way to weave in a stitch of humor. “I used to be able to bounce a quarter off my stomach. Now I can hide an all-terrain vehicle in there.” Yes, I love her wit and simplistic yet profound storytelling. She creates characters so real I could swear I've known them for a lifetime. In fact, Laura’s relationship with Caroline in regards to their mother was uncannily real and quite personal - mirroring my own relationship with my mother and sister - except in reverse. Plus, I have a fondness for fiber arts, fabric stores, county fairs, photography, Easy Bake Ovens, and girlfriend gab time. All intimate pieces stitched into "The Art of Mending." And I must say, without going into specifics, the ending was absolutely perfect! Resolving why one child was treated so differently from the others, without wrapping everything up in a happily-ever-after-bow giving a sense of present and ongoing relationship mending. Besides, no two families will resolve their issues exactly the same way – regardless of how similar the circumstances. So it's nice when an author allows his/her readers the opportunity to create their own ultimate ideal ending. 4 – simple yet profound stars

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bonnie

    The Art of Mending is the second-to-last of the fourteen books I read by Elizabeth Berg. The title is apt; it’s a book about healing. The theme seems to be addressed in so many stories these days, that I can find it tiresome, even as I can empathize with its victims. The story here, though, was well-crafted, and this was a more satisfying read than her next novel, The Year of Pleasures. While reading the latter, I frankly had the feeling that Berg had grown weary of writing, and needed a break. The Art of Mending is the second-to-last of the fourteen books I read by Elizabeth Berg. The title is apt; it’s a book about healing. The theme seems to be addressed in so many stories these days, that I can find it tiresome, even as I can empathize with its victims. The story here, though, was well-crafted, and this was a more satisfying read than her next novel, The Year of Pleasures. While reading the latter, I frankly had the feeling that Berg had grown weary of writing, and needed a break. Elizabeth Berg can usually be relied upon to provide a quick, easy read, while offering thoughtful observations about life and, more specifically, about relationships. So if this is what you are looking for, I recommend you read one of her books. It has been interesting to me to see her development as a writer over the years. If this also interests you, I’d suggest you begin with reading Durable Goods, her debut book, and work your way through to The Art of Mending. Perhaps you will go further than I did, and also choose to read Home Safe, published in April of this year. I’m not quite ready for that yet.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lena

    I wanted an easy read, and this was recommended to me by a friend, with the caveat that it was an old-lady novel from Target. I should have taken that more seriously, along with "old-lady novel for women who don't like to think/know how." (No offense, Allison). I believe I got to page 30 before wanting to vomit on myself & the book and then eating my vomit to only re-vomit again. Yep. That good. My problem with this book, and others in its genre is this: it's recycled, carefully yet poorly c I wanted an easy read, and this was recommended to me by a friend, with the caveat that it was an old-lady novel from Target. I should have taken that more seriously, along with "old-lady novel for women who don't like to think/know how." (No offense, Allison). I believe I got to page 30 before wanting to vomit on myself & the book and then eating my vomit to only re-vomit again. Yep. That good. My problem with this book, and others in its genre is this: it's recycled, carefully yet poorly calculated garbage. The story line seemed intriguing enough, but I couldn't get past the 8th grade canned dialogue or the "strategically" placed symbols or foreshadowing. I put this novel in the same category of The Secret Life of Bees, as it seems like both writers sat down with a "How to write novels for dummies" handbook and went at it with blind rage, intent on finally writing a novel after their children were raised and they had time on their hands for themselves. If you want to do something for yourself in your 40s or 50s, take up painting or zumba. So I suppose my poor rating for this book is a reflection of this book and others of this genre (old lady novels from Target I guess is a good enough name for them) more than this actual novel, because I didn't, nor do I want to, finish. Phew. Glad that's finally off my chest.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alison

    This little book packed a punch. There's an author interview in the back of the book where Elizabeth Berg talks about how many of her loyal readers didn't like this book, and it's definitely a difficult one to read and lacks a perfect protagonist to adore and cheer for. But I thought the lack of a "hero" or morally perfect character was what made the book work so well. Everyone has their role to play in families, even when--especially when--there's abuse. So many authors try to tackle these issu This little book packed a punch. There's an author interview in the back of the book where Elizabeth Berg talks about how many of her loyal readers didn't like this book, and it's definitely a difficult one to read and lacks a perfect protagonist to adore and cheer for. But I thought the lack of a "hero" or morally perfect character was what made the book work so well. Everyone has their role to play in families, even when--especially when--there's abuse. So many authors try to tackle these issues of abuse and family denial, but to me The Art of Mending really said some important and true things on the subject. Difficult to read, but worth it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Deanna

    4.5 I have enjoyed many of Elizabeth Bergs books. This is one of the best in my opinion. This story shows us how families can be very complicated. Especially when living with secrets that can tear them apart. Sometimes sharing these secrets can help families grow, heal and become closer than ever before. This family that lived with secrets that could have torn them apart but once shared just might save them. It is an amazing read. The difficult subject manner is handled ext 4.5 I have enjoyed many of Elizabeth Bergs books. This is one of the best in my opinion. This story shows us how families can be very complicated. Especially when living with secrets that can tear them apart. Sometimes sharing these secrets can help families grow, heal and become closer than ever before. This family that lived with secrets that could have torn them apart but once shared just might save them. It is an amazing read. The difficult subject manner is handled extremely well. Highly recommended.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Vicki

    As God is my witness, I have tried to like Berg's books. Really I have. So many people love them that I start to think something is strange with me. But I just get bored. The plots seem to take a long time to get going, the writing does not grab me, and I give up. I think I just have to accept that her books don't "speak" to me, even though the plot synopses always sound intriguing.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elisabeth Wallace

    There is a special kind of person out there, well suited to be a counselor or therapist, who can, and with great fascination, co-opt other people's pain. Reading this novel, it became clear to me that Elizabeth Berg is one of these people. In both this and "We are all welcome here," she readily admits that she is basing the events and circumstances on the extraordinary suffering of other people. She is a writer who has fallen into an unusual sort of pattern. She absorbs the stories of others and There is a special kind of person out there, well suited to be a counselor or therapist, who can, and with great fascination, co-opt other people's pain. Reading this novel, it became clear to me that Elizabeth Berg is one of these people. In both this and "We are all welcome here," she readily admits that she is basing the events and circumstances on the extraordinary suffering of other people. She is a writer who has fallen into an unusual sort of pattern. She absorbs the stories of others and regurgitates them in a similar format, in which the mother/daughter dynamic is given top billing. Hence, no matter how different and frightening the situation, the reader has a reassuring sense of having been there before. Common features of her novels include, a beautiful, young, and irrepairably damaged mother, a plainer but fiercely intelligent daughter, and a distant, indistinct father. She always throws in a zany, loveable friend or two for the mother or daughter as well. This character gets the lion's share of amusing lines, and supplies comic relief. With characters in tow, the tension in her novels builds and builds to what promises to be a disasterous climax. Then she cops out with a easy fix answer to a complex problem. It was sort of whimsical and cute when she threw Elvis in at the end of "We are all Welcome," but given the deep psychological issues at play here, her fix-it play was too obvious. It's not that I don't value her contribution, and even her interest, in bringing subjects to light that most people don't care to stomach (not least of all those living them). I appreciate her willingness to delve into the darker elements of relationships and the human experience. I just want to say that I'm on to her. I know what she's doing, and I've got her pegged. She's not the owner of these stories, she is just a storyteller. It is the fact that she is a thoughtful and rapt listener, makes her voice and perspective, however removed, valuable. This, however, did not save this novel from its own predictability. I was never shocked, not once. I was interested to follow her characterization of the "type" of people who might experience these things, but ultimately disappointed with the outcome. The feelings build and build only to be tossed away without adequate explaination. Why did the daughter who was abused forgive her mother? I have nothing against forgiveness, but in this case, it seemed arbitrary. I blame Berg's removed viewpoint on the subject matter [of parental abuse] for this disparity.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Wendy

    This book didn't need to be written. The character doesn't really grow as a person from the start to the finish. It's just another book where there is a great buildup of a serious conflict and then a quick, patched-together resolution that isn't satisfying. The title and connection to quilting is lame, and the description of her quilting studio is belabored and overly wrought. Very weak connection between the title of the book and the career of the protagonist. Not necessary, and probably done t This book didn't need to be written. The character doesn't really grow as a person from the start to the finish. It's just another book where there is a great buildup of a serious conflict and then a quick, patched-together resolution that isn't satisfying. The title and connection to quilting is lame, and the description of her quilting studio is belabored and overly wrought. Very weak connection between the title of the book and the career of the protagonist. Not necessary, and probably done to increase the audience, but in my opinion kind of insulting since it isn't fleshed out enough. Wouldn't recommend reading this.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    maybe if i'd been in more of an oprah's book club mood, i would've appreciated this book's lugubrious sentimentality. as it stands, however, i just found it overbearing and annoying. so there's some deep dark family secrets between 3 adult siblings that get slowly....painfully...(just get to the point already!) revealed. but then not much else happens. i should've been clued in when each chapter started with an italicized description of a family photo. i might give some of her other ones a maybe if i'd been in more of an oprah's book club mood, i would've appreciated this book's lugubrious sentimentality. as it stands, however, i just found it overbearing and annoying. so there's some deep dark family secrets between 3 adult siblings that get slowly....painfully...(just get to the point already!) revealed. but then not much else happens. i should've been clued in when each chapter started with an italicized description of a family photo. i might give some of her other ones a true ("durable goods", for example), but this work was, for me, O-verly sentimental.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    This book really resonated with me. It might've been because my mom is a quilter, or because some of the family issues are very familiar, or because I have the same name as the protagonist. But it was also an easy, thoughtful read about healing and forgiveness.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Keziah Frost

    Enthralling. Deep psychological insight into the family dynamics of a narcissistic mother.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Carolyn Agosta

    Like a quilt, this story has many pieces which have to be fitted together to make a pleasing whole. I've read most of Elizabeth Berg's novels. A few didn't quite make a whole for me, this one did. Laura, a maker of 'commissioned' quilts, has to deal with some allegations about their mother by her sister, Caroline. These allegations make Laura look back (somewhat unwillingly) at her childhood with a new perspective. Just as she would look at fabric with an eye toward whether it would fit or not f Like a quilt, this story has many pieces which have to be fitted together to make a pleasing whole. I've read most of Elizabeth Berg's novels. A few didn't quite make a whole for me, this one did. Laura, a maker of 'commissioned' quilts, has to deal with some allegations about their mother by her sister, Caroline. These allegations make Laura look back (somewhat unwillingly) at her childhood with a new perspective. Just as she would look at fabric with an eye toward whether it would fit or not fit the quilt she's working on, Laura's memories are taken out and laid in sunlight, turned this way and that, shuffled and moved around to bring them together. Part of what made this book 'work' for me was the language. Ms. Berg's writing always is very satisfying in a textural way and The Art of Mending is no exception. There are too many lovely places to quote, but the conversation between Carolina and Laura, where they talk about their work and what it is, and what truth is, was particularly revealing - both of themselves and of what the whole story was about. And about how people deal with things. The other part that drew me in as a reader was the inescapable truths. No matter how close siblings might be, or how much time we spend together, we do not live the same lives. Truth is, we barely have the same parents, because those parents are going through different things in their lives. The man and woman who were my parents when I was six were not the same people who were my sister's parents when she was six. And despite how much they might try, they couldn't possibly treat us all exactly the same. Reading the book, I couldn't help think time and again of my own siblings and parents, and the places we connected and came apart, and how - as one character says - "you can't do all you intend". And this, I think, is what makes a book successful, when it lingers in a reader's mind after the story is over. Not just the characters and events, but the ideas and emotions, the longing to know each other, really know, and then the fear of what happens if we do? The ending of the book (no spoilers!) left me wanting more, wanting to know what would happen next. It was different from what I expected, yet it fit completely with the way things throughout the story had been different from what the reader might expect. As Laura muses, "It was not about me or my expectations..." So, although I wanted more when I first read it, now the ending seems exactly right. Thanks, Ms. Berg. I plan to read it again. By the way, I really wanted to rate this 4 stars Plus.

  15. 5 out of 5

    bookczuk

    Early on, the characters in this novel captivated me. Laura is a wife, mother, daughter, and a quilter. As she pieces bits of fabrics together to make a quilt, she takes the bits and pieces of her life and her family's personalities to help create a new whole. The book is interspersed (I'm pretty sure I spelled that wrong- live with it) with descriptions of a family photograph album- snapshots in time, that together with what Laura discovers, create a new whole for her family. There w Early on, the characters in this novel captivated me. Laura is a wife, mother, daughter, and a quilter. As she pieces bits of fabrics together to make a quilt, she takes the bits and pieces of her life and her family's personalities to help create a new whole. The book is interspersed (I'm pretty sure I spelled that wrong- live with it) with descriptions of a family photograph album- snapshots in time, that together with what Laura discovers, create a new whole for her family. There were bits of domestic details that have annoyed some reviewers, but that I liked- like when Laura writes "I hung up, flipped the turkey burgers for the last time, dumped the oven-baked French fries into a basket and salted them, sliced tomatoes, drained the water off the ears of corn...", we'd had turkey burgers and salad for supper that evening. I liked the rituals she and her husband had established in their life- how they chose to share with each other how their day went. There was one passage where she wrote about buying fabric- about carrying an entire bolt around the store, even though the manager said to put it down, carrying it because she didn't want someone else to buy the whole bolt before she got her piece...It reminded me of anyone who has a passion about anything- like books, for instance, and our nutty behavior when our searching for new ones. I mean, Logically, I know that if someone gets the last copy, I can order another, but it isn't the same. (pp 203-204 in the hardback edition I have in front of me.) I had an aunt who turned out to be abusive of one of her children. I found this out in adulthood, and this, perhaps gave me a heightened sesnitivity to the story. None of us knew until many years after the aunt died, but it explains a lot. We just thought she was nuts- had no clue about the abuse. My cousin is a strong woman and is doing alright now. This book is about healing. The question is whether or not past wrongs can be healed. As Laura says, 'There is an art to mending. If you're careful, the repair can actually add to the beauty of the thing, because it is testimony of its worth.' Edited to add that I did a reread of this book after discovering it in bumma's stacks when she passed away. Still a lovely read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette "Astute Crabbist"

    Elizabeth Berg is always good for a quick, easy read with some thoughtful observations about ordinary life and relationships. This is not one of her best, but I still enjoyed it. Her other books have more joy and caring in among the sorrow and emotional exploration. This one was a little more angry. The only truly beautiful, caring, forgiving character in the book is Laura's husband Pete. The book does have value in that it shows how we can grow up in the same household with our siblings an Elizabeth Berg is always good for a quick, easy read with some thoughtful observations about ordinary life and relationships. This is not one of her best, but I still enjoyed it. Her other books have more joy and caring in among the sorrow and emotional exploration. This one was a little more angry. The only truly beautiful, caring, forgiving character in the book is Laura's husband Pete. The book does have value in that it shows how we can grow up in the same household with our siblings and yet experience totally different childhoods. I think with the way Berg ended the story, she made the point that sometimes just letting someone tell their story and be believed is a gateway to healing relationships and lives.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Liza Perrat

    Loved this story ... review to come.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Judy

    I enjoyed this novel for its clear and lovely writing, and for its exploration of trying to get to the truth buried through the decades in a family's unhappiness. The main question in The Art of Mending is this: was Caroline, the middle sibling, really the object of abuse by her mother, as she claims to her siblings when all are middle-aged? Or is she really just a tiresome drama queen, as her mother claims and as her sister, Laura, and brother, Steve, tend to believe? Laura also wonders what li I enjoyed this novel for its clear and lovely writing, and for its exploration of trying to get to the truth buried through the decades in a family's unhappiness. The main question in The Art of Mending is this: was Caroline, the middle sibling, really the object of abuse by her mother, as she claims to her siblings when all are middle-aged? Or is she really just a tiresome drama queen, as her mother claims and as her sister, Laura, and brother, Steve, tend to believe? Laura also wonders what lies beneath her mother's often-distant persona: "My mother, smiling brightly, looking directly into your eyes before she embraced you tightly, would feel a million miles away. My father, averting his gaze before he took you into his arms, would be the one who felt close." Overall Berg did a splendid job of painting the characters: Laura, who married late and is happily married with two children; her mother, a former beauty who wavers between emotional stiffness and bursts of warmth; Caroline, wearing her emotional damage like an expensive and showy necklace that she wants everyone to notice. I liked Laura's unapologetic embracing of motherhood as something that fulfills her to the max. A few quibbles: Laura is supposedly a professional quilter, and in a few scenes she is in the store where she buys her materials, chatting up the gay manager, a character drawn in shocking gay stereotypes: he is preening, self-important, easily out of patience with other customers who don't share his artistic taste. How did Berg get away with this in a modern novel? There is a single scene describing Laura's home workshop, with a level of detail about the tools of her trade out of balance with the attention given in the book to her work. I think Berg was simply trying to make the "mending" theme carry from the family drama to Laura's own profession. Overall, I enjoyed how Berg teased out the family drama, when we are not sure of who was completely telling the truth.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Carly

    As adults we often question our childhood memories, no matter how clear they are in our minds, they will never be the same as an adult memory…can they be trusted? Abuse is quite easily misconstrued in the eyes of a child. Often abused children seek approval and play into the abuse because any attention is better than none at all. As a child you don’t understand what actions signify love and which hate. In this book 2 siblings are faced with a scary confession by their “odd” sister of abuse at th As adults we often question our childhood memories, no matter how clear they are in our minds, they will never be the same as an adult memory…can they be trusted? Abuse is quite easily misconstrued in the eyes of a child. Often abused children seek approval and play into the abuse because any attention is better than none at all. As a child you don’t understand what actions signify love and which hate. In this book 2 siblings are faced with a scary confession by their “odd” sister of abuse at the hands of their mother. They go through varying stages of denial and confusion. The father even almost tells the main character before he passes away at the hospital, but decides to keep it a secret into his grave. In the end to me this book is about a few main themes: 1) trusting childhood memories and how they are different for all parties involved, call it “perspective” if you will or even “selective restructuring”; 2) family “norms” are in no way consistent between families; families in fact are like an entire organism with separate organisms living within it; 3) not all children are treated equally…and sometimes this is good and sometimes very bad; 4) losing a child can make you crazy and keeping it a secret makes that a guarantee…families shouldn’t have secrets; 5) at some point in time as an adult, you realize that even though you may have turned out ok, you may not be able to trust your parents with your own children….because that is intermixing those organisms and what worked with one, what gets overlooked with one, may not fly by the radar with the next. Some of these ideas are of course generational; others are lasting truths. This book was an eye-opening portrait of a family, which was relatively normal even in the eyes of most of the members but mostly because they refused to see.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Craftnut -

    The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg is about a quilter who discovers a family secret. As siblings gather for an annual reunion, the middle child reveals that she was the victim of physical and emotional abuse by her mother, but the siblings have a difficult time believing the revelation, as it is years after the events. The siblings are in their 40s and 50s, and this comes out of the blue. What memories are real and what are imagined slights by a drama-queen personality? Interspersed between th The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg is about a quilter who discovers a family secret. As siblings gather for an annual reunion, the middle child reveals that she was the victim of physical and emotional abuse by her mother, but the siblings have a difficult time believing the revelation, as it is years after the events. The siblings are in their 40s and 50s, and this comes out of the blue. What memories are real and what are imagined slights by a drama-queen personality? Interspersed between the chapters are little reminiscences of childhood, like looking at an old photograph. Reviews are mixed on this one on Goodreads, but I found this book engaging and interesting. There is only a little quilting in the book, and interesting to read about her very well stocked studio, however I am not sure the author really quilts. A couple of statements don't make sense to a real quilter, like cutting strips of fabric 3/4-inch wide - ummm, the strip would end up 1/4 inch wide after sewing it with 1/4-inch seams, what good would that be? And another about applique being less expensive for a custom quilt than piecing, again, what? Obviously, the author hadn't done both. But, a quote from near the beginning of the book is thought provoking. "As for mending, I think it's good to take the time to fix something rather than throw it away... You'll always notice the fabric scar, of course, but there's an art to mending: if you're careful, the repair can actually add to the beauty of the thing, because it is a testimony to its worth." How true, in quilts and relationships. There are lessons here, mainly about letting go and appreciating what is now.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Linda Robinson

    When beginning a task, I finish the segment that I like least first. Then it's done and I can move on to the stuff I really like. There isn't a chance to move on to the stuff I really like in this book. I felt nervous reading it "I hope this doesn't happen," and then it did, just as expected. There isn't anyone to empathize with here; the main character isn't dimensional, she reads as flat as her quilts. Perhaps she has emotional troubles as well as the characters with featured problems; difficu When beginning a task, I finish the segment that I like least first. Then it's done and I can move on to the stuff I really like. There isn't a chance to move on to the stuff I really like in this book. I felt nervous reading it "I hope this doesn't happen," and then it did, just as expected. There isn't anyone to empathize with here; the main character isn't dimensional, she reads as flat as her quilts. Perhaps she has emotional troubles as well as the characters with featured problems; difficulty empathizing, connecting the squares. But she made me uncomfortable with her distance. Is there an analogy that, when quilting is written about as scene setting, it's about borders, and cutting borders? Maybe so, but I'm not interested enough to examine that.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Emma

    This is a boo-hoo book. I picked this one to listen to on CD because I really enjoyed her other book, We Are All Wecome Here. This one was not nearly as good. It's about a family who has all these emotional problems because one sibling was treated poorly by her mother and it just goes on and on about their little problems and how the sister is sad becuase she thinks her mother doesn't love her and it's just boring after a while. The writing is OK, but I just didn't care about the characters, the This is a boo-hoo book. I picked this one to listen to on CD because I really enjoyed her other book, We Are All Wecome Here. This one was not nearly as good. It's about a family who has all these emotional problems because one sibling was treated poorly by her mother and it just goes on and on about their little problems and how the sister is sad becuase she thinks her mother doesn't love her and it's just boring after a while. The writing is OK, but I just didn't care about the characters, there's not much there and what is there, isn't that interesting.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Amy Bailey

    I picked up this audio on a whim while perusing the shelves at the library. A good, short read for my daily commute. At 6 discs I should be able to finish within the week. It's not that it wasn't fairly engaging. It held my attention, sure enough. I just wasn't very connected to the story. I like the idea, and I like the comparison between patching together disparate pieces of fabric into something cohesive and whole and bringing together members of a broken family, healing past wounds through f I picked up this audio on a whim while perusing the shelves at the library. A good, short read for my daily commute. At 6 discs I should be able to finish within the week. It's not that it wasn't fairly engaging. It held my attention, sure enough. I just wasn't very connected to the story. I like the idea, and I like the comparison between patching together disparate pieces of fabric into something cohesive and whole and bringing together members of a broken family, healing past wounds through finally reaching out across the years. I think perhaps this story was told from the wrong point of view. In a way, I didn't really care for Laura. And my thoughts of Caroline were colored by the fact that I was seeing her through Laura's lens. I should appreciate the fact that all the women in this family were imperfect. Usually I herald that. But this time, they weren't just imperfect. They were rather boring. Not detestable, but also not likeable. Just blah. And as another reviewer pointed out, this book is rife with stereotypes, almost caricatures. And most of these stereotypes are gender-based, which is even more irksome. I do wish the quilting metaphor had been more relevantly and expertly weaved into the story. I feel like I'm just supposed to say, "yep, I get it," just from the title alone. I don't really see how various scenes of her going to the fabric shop and talking about quilting a few times is supposed to pull me closer to the idea that she's also mending her family back together. And there is so much potential there to "The Art of Mending." I can't help but compare it to the metaphor that Garth Stein created in "The Art of Racing in the Rain." That time I was quite literally brought to tears when he talked about car racing. FREAKING RACE CARS! I don't give a flying fig about car racing, but Stein managed to make it the most beautiful metaphor for navigating life that I've ever read! Sadly, Berg's story lacked that kind of pull for me. I felt the two things were way too disconnected. I shouldn't have to reach for it in my mind, and it shouldn't have to be explained in great detail. It should be effortless.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Christie

    Possible Mild Spoilers! I wish I had the talent this author has. She has taken a very heavy, difficult subject (child abuse) and made it not only hard to stop reading but at times so funny that you just have to find someone to read it aloud to. The narrator's childhood memories are often hysterical! I kept feeling almost as if I'd lived them myself. The characters are very real, sometimes painfully so, and the ending surprised me by how realistic it was. It was nice to find a book tha Possible Mild Spoilers! I wish I had the talent this author has. She has taken a very heavy, difficult subject (child abuse) and made it not only hard to stop reading but at times so funny that you just have to find someone to read it aloud to. The narrator's childhood memories are often hysterical! I kept feeling almost as if I'd lived them myself. The characters are very real, sometimes painfully so, and the ending surprised me by how realistic it was. It was nice to find a book that conveyed the horrors of abuse without wallowing in the painful details as some authors seem to ghoulishly delight in doing. I have a feeling that it will annoy some readers who want a more decisive, satisfying sense of closure, but from my own personal experience this is more the way things go. It is very rare, if not impossible, to get a nice tidy, contrite apology that magically makes all of our troubles go away. The issues will always be there, the book hints, but there is still hope that something good can be salvaged. And families are complicated, as are relationships between the abused and the abuser. I thought the way it was all handled was very skillful. (Trying so hard not to spoil things here!) A caution: if you were abused as a child, there is no way that you will be able to read this and not remember what it felt like. There could be flashback triggers for you here. There were for me. It is a good book to read if you are healing, but I would still recommend that you wait until you are in a strong, stable frame of mind before you read it, and have someone around for support just in case. If your experience is new and raw, it might be best to choose a different book for now.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kristi Lamont

    It wasn't too long ago (I'm 53 as I write this) that I realized that my sister and I did not grow up with the same people as parents (she's about six years younger than me). Oh, of course we grew up with the same _parents_. They just weren't the same _ people_. Think about yourself: Were you the same person at 19 that you were at 25? Had things happened to change you, change how you dealt with your spouse, your parents, your friends, your children, your brothers and sisters? Were you making more It wasn't too long ago (I'm 53 as I write this) that I realized that my sister and I did not grow up with the same people as parents (she's about six years younger than me). Oh, of course we grew up with the same _parents_. They just weren't the same _ people_. Think about yourself: Were you the same person at 19 that you were at 25? Had things happened to change you, change how you dealt with your spouse, your parents, your friends, your children, your brothers and sisters? Were you making more money, did you have a different job, did you have postpartum depression, were you clinically depressed, were you about to go to law school? My moment of clarity came when I asked my sister, "Did you not grow up in the same house as I did?" And then I thought, no, no she did not. Because when I was 16 I was driving all of us to school and cooking supper at least one night a week because of Mama and Daddy's jobs. And when she was 16 she was driving herself, and her brother and I were away at college and Daddy worked out of town, then, and Mama and my sister ate out a lot, or ate take-out and the like. The Art of Mending was a tougher (emotionally) Elizabeth Berg than any other I've read so far. But she captured ^^that^^ in an incredibly thoughtful way, while dealing with some extremely tough topics. Nobody is perfect. No childhood is perfect. We all do the best we can. And, as always, there's this: Ms Berg leaves us, her readers, with hope. For which I am very, very thankful.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dallaslain

    This was a re-read and looks like it will start an Elizabeth Berg phase. I love her stories - they feel like talking with a friend who knows you so well she tells you something about yourself. This story of a mother who is sideways with one of her daughters and how the other daughter begins to face the uncomfortable and stop working around obstacles, stop making invisible what you are tired of seeing or don't understand. Berg is probably too sentimental for some tastes, but I think se This was a re-read and looks like it will start an Elizabeth Berg phase. I love her stories - they feel like talking with a friend who knows you so well she tells you something about yourself. This story of a mother who is sideways with one of her daughters and how the other daughter begins to face the uncomfortable and stop working around obstacles, stop making invisible what you are tired of seeing or don't understand. Berg is probably too sentimental for some tastes, but I think sentiment leads to a treasure trove of truth. Going to settle in for a bit this winter with these cosy stories and see what truths I can find.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Judy

    Elizabeth Berg is a great writer, and her forte is family dynamics. This one falls into that category nicely, but is a bit difficult to read, both because of the topic and because of how the other siblings seem to have ignored and still would prefer to ignore the middle child's difficult upbringing (trying to avoid spoilers here). Despite that, really the only quibble I have is the final resolution which seems to be a bit quick and without much underpinning. Still, a well written book, and I enj Elizabeth Berg is a great writer, and her forte is family dynamics. This one falls into that category nicely, but is a bit difficult to read, both because of the topic and because of how the other siblings seem to have ignored and still would prefer to ignore the middle child's difficult upbringing (trying to avoid spoilers here). Despite that, really the only quibble I have is the final resolution which seems to be a bit quick and without much underpinning. Still, a well written book, and I enjoyed how the quilt making profession was included. 3.5 stars

  28. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    This was not one of the best Elizabeth Berg books I've read. As I've said before, Elizabeth Berg's books are a favorite of mine because they are pure escapist reading for me. I love how she develops her characters, talks about home and family life and relationships, as well as women. This story wasn't fleshed out or come together well enough for me. It felt a little contrived.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Norma Monson

    This book made me think about family relationships in a new way. We all experience something different and things aren’t always as they seem. We can hurt each other without knowing or understanding and mending takes time...

  30. 4 out of 5

    Me

    An interesting work of fiction centered on family secrets and the healing process. Three adult siblings face that although growing up in the same house, they experienced their mother very differently. One sister reveals that she was abused several times throughout her childhood but the parents kept it hidden from the other two siblings. The ending is touching and *could be* realistic.

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