The Year of Pleasures


“Someone had to die first. It turned out to be John. Nothing more. Nothing less. What fell to me now, what I was driving toward, was the creation of a new kind of life, minus the ongoing influence of what I had loved and depended upon most in the world.”

You know, when I downloaded this book (it’s a library e-book), I never quite expected it to be about grief.

Betta Nolan is a widow, a recent one. She is on a journey, a physical one (she moves from Boston to a small town in the Midwest), and a mental one (moving on from couplehood, figuring out how to live alone, settling into a new place, making friends and finding her old ones).

I suppose her tale of getting over her grief isn’t really a typical one. She and her husband were obviously financially sound enough for her to pack up and move (a little randomly) to this small town, to buy a large house and to dream of setting up a business despite any experience (her background is in writing children’s books). Things seemed to fall into place too easily – finding a house in a charming little town, a nice ten-year-old boy for a neighbour, reconnecting with friends she hasn’t seen or communicated with in decades. It was a little too romanticized, a little too picturesque, somehow.

Still, there were some lovely parts to this book. I’ve not read much by Elizabeth Berg, although she sure has written plenty of books (see below). And she seems to have such an incredible way with the little everyday details, like the simple joy of cooking a chicken, watching the world go by from a car, and even something as ordinary as alleys:

“In alleys, things were more casual and more intimate – and therefore were revealing. In summer, you saw things like colourful plastic glasses left on little outdoor tables, rugs draped over back-porch railings, toys strewn across lawns or handmade sandboxes, laundry on the line with the sleeves of upside-down shirts seeming to wave. There might be hollyhocks and snapdragons and gigantic sunflowers, tomatoes hanging heavy on the vine, green peppers hiding in the shade of their own leaves and waiting to be found like Easter eggs. There might be sugar snap peas climbing chain-link fences with curly abandon, children’s gardens with leggy printing on Popsicle sticks identifying dependable and forgiving crops: zucchini, carrots, marigolds…”

That was, for me, the pull factor. Her way with words. Plus that lovely cover!

Have you read anything by Elizabeth Berg? Is there a book of hers you’d recommend?


I read this book for the What’s In a Name challenge (challenge page)

bergElizabeth Berg was a nurse for ten years before publishing her first book. Her novels Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year. Talk Before Sleep was an ABBY finalist, a New York Times bestseller, and a national bestseller. The Pull of the Moon, Range of Motion, What We Keep, and Until the Real Thing Comes Along also were national bestsellers. In 1997, Berg won the NEBA Award in fiction.

Family traditions: celebrations for holidays and everyday
Durable Goods
Talk Before Sleep
Range of Motion
The Pull of the Moon
Joy School
What We Keep
Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True
Until the Real Thing Comes Along
Open House
Never Change
Ordinary Life: stories
True to Form
Say When
The Art of Mending
The Year of Pleasures
The Handmaid and the Carpenter
We Are All Welcome Here
Dream When You’re Feeling Blue
The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted
Home Safe
The Last Time I Saw You: A Novel
Once Upon a Time, There Was You
Range of Motion


  1. I really enjoyed The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted. I also read Home Safe which I liked too. I’ve been wanting to read The Year of Pleasures. Good review.


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