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Open House [Audio CD]

Elizabeth Berg
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (276 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 1 2000 Oprah's Book Club
An Oprah's Book Club selection

Samantha Morrow's husband has left her, and after a spree of overcharging at Tiffany's, she settles down to reconstruct a life for herself and her 11-year-old son. Her eccentric mother tried to help by fixing her up with dates, but a more pressing problem is money.

To meet her mortgage payments, Sam decides to take in boarders. The first is an older woman who offers sage advice and sorely needed comfort; the second, a maladjusted student, is not quite so helpful. A new friend, King, an untraditional man, suggests that Samantha get out, get going, get work. But her real work is this: In order to emerge from grief and the past, she has to learn how to make her own happiness. In order to really see people, she has to look within her heart. And in order to know who she is, she has to remember--and reclaim--the person she used to be, long before she became someone else in an effort to save her marriage.

Deeply felt, beautifully observed, and written with perfect emotional pitch, Open House is the unforgettable story of how a woman re-creates her life after divorce by opening her house to strangers and her heart to the simple miracle of possibility.
--This text refers to an alternate Audio CD edition.

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Oprah Book Club® Selection, August 2000: The narrator of Elizabeth Berg's Open House calls divorce "a series of internal earthquakes ... one after the other." She ought to know. Samantha is abandoned by her husband in the opening pages of this three-handkerchief special, and the resultant tremors keep her off-balance for most of the novel. There are practical problems aplenty, of course, including a shortage of money and an 11-year-old son to raise. But Sam's sense of emotional bereavement is far worse, despite the fact that her husband had been giving her the conjugal cold shoulder for years:
I miss David so much, yes I do, I miss the presence of another person in my bed at night, even if he doesn't touch me; the reliability of someone else being there in the morning, even if they only shave and stare straight ahead into the mirror while you lean against the bathroom doorjamb with your cup of coffee, chatting hopefully.
The loneliness in her "as constant and as irrefutable" as circulating blood, Sam begins to rebuild her life. She finds herself a job and takes in a couple of boarders to help meet her mortgage payments. (One of them, a depressed student named Lavender Blue, informs her that "life was nothing but one major disappointment after the other"--the sort of homily that Sam is understandably reluctant to hear these days.) She also starts dating, with disastrous results. Yet this comically kvetching heroine does manage to find love in the ruins, and by the time Open House winds down, it's hard not to believe that she's much better off. Throughout, Berg alternates her snappy and sappy registers like a real pro. And the conclusion, which most readers will be able to spot a mile off, seems just right--the light at the end of the post-matrimonial tunnel. --Anita Urquhart --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


Praise for Durable Goods
"A little gem of a book."—Richard Bausch

Praise for Talk Before Sleep
"Elizabeth Berg is one of those rare souls who can play with truths as if swinging across the void from one trapeze to another."
—Joan Gould

Praise for The Pull of the Moon
"It is wise and witty, thoughtful and exhilarating. It leaves the reader observing life with greater hope and satisfaction."
—Jill McCorkle

Praise for What We Keep
"Berg knows the hearts of her characters intimately, showing them with compassion, humor, and an illuminating generosity."
—The Seattle Times

Praise for Range of Motion
"Berg's brilliant insights about the human condition, plus her capacity for turning the ordinary into richly detailed prose, make this book the love story of the year."
—Detroit Free Press --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars A Bit Too Tidy April 7 2004
By Allyn
In this story about middle-aged Samantha Morrow's coping with divorce, Elizabeth Berg definitely shows evidence of her literary strengths. In "Open House," Berg has once again created a realistic main character whose story is easily readable. Also, she has retained the asset of using "light" and almost simple writing to convey wisdom and insight. And I've got to say it-"Open House" had a way of being just naturally charming and funny.
But somehow, when you thought about it, the story of Samantha's dealings with and recovery from her divorce seemed to be a little too cutesy and perfect. First of all, it appeared that the novel took place over about half a year. Sam's sadness, rage, and erractic behavior in the novel's beginning were VERY realistic emotions for a divorced woman to experience. But honestly, by the end of the novel, it seemed like Sam was just totally fine and thought life was charming and every minute of it was worth living. Put simply, you just can't recover from divorce that fast.
And what about Sam's method of employment-taking a different menial job each day? Um, hello. First of all, it made Sam look lazy and stupid-wouldn't she want to establish a decent, permanent career? And although she took in "roomates" as well to make money, couldn't she have used a little more than $5.15 an hour on a day job?
Finally, the love story of sorts between Sam and King was hard to swallow. King supposedly has a degree from MIT yet, like Sam, picks a different minimum-wage job every day. The reason? To be able to enjoy life and have variety in each day. I don't know about you, but that sort of characterization/reasoning just makes me want to roll my eyes.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Unrealistic parts marred an otherwise decent book Jan. 12 2004
Maybe I was too fresh from reading Barbara Ehrenreich's "Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) getting by in America", but the employment choices of Samantha made this book too unrealistic for me to take seriously.
Sam's husband David, who is from a very wealthy family, stops trying to communicate with Sam and leaves her for another woman. Understandably, Sam is heartbroken and lonely. One of her first acts is to go out and spend ridiculous amounts of money at Bloomingdale's and Tiffany, and then give some of her purchases away to a homeless woman, disregarding the fact that they woman would have preferred to get 1/10 of the amount of cash Sam had spent, instead of the extravagent bracelet. After the spending spree, David cuts Sam off from the checking account.
We are not treated to the details of the financial arrangements they make, but Sam decides she wants to keep the house and take in roommates and get a job. The roommates are the "Open House" and there is some good and some bad from those people. The jobs, though, are highly unrealistic for someone wanting to keep her expensive home. These are jobs like laundry attendant, telemarketer (sitting on metal folding chairs!) and other minimum wage jobs- all gotten through a temporary agency. A few phone calls would have taught the author that the agencies pay about $7/hour- hardly enough to pay for Sam's lovely house.
Oh well- if you can overlook that, you might enjoy the novel. Sam dates a loser or two, while being involved in a lovely friendship with another temp agency collegue. He is a sweet man and I found myself becoming his advocate. Travis, Sam and David's son, pops in and out of the novel and deals with the adolescent confusion of his age, and of a child whose parents are divorcing.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Probably 3 and a half, actually. Sept. 30 2003
By Ms Diva
I really did enjoy this book - it was very readable and fast paced. I cared about the key characters. Alot of what happens in the book felt true to life, and I particularly enjoyed the relationships between Sam and her son, and Sam and her mother. I also thought that Berg used her secondary characters, the people who roomed at Samantha's, quite well. The evolution of the characters was good. The plot was engaging, overall. Based on my rating system, I should probably give it four stars, as I imagine I will never give it away - I could see myself reading at least some parts of it. Some of the imagery is quite stunning.
So why not a full five stars? I've struggled with that; I read this book ages ago and I've avoided reviewing it because I've been torn. The problem is that although the book was good, it wasn't particularly great. In the first three or four chapters, it seems like Berg is going to really let Samantha struggle, and we're going to get to see some of the real pain a person can feel as they rebuild from a separation. The problem is she never quite goes far enough; the emotional depth isn't quite there. Everything seems to be wrapped up too quickly and easily. I wanted to get a better understanding of who David was, and why the marriage broke up (to be fair to Berg, she does write some effective flashbacks, and this really is Sam's story, not Sam and David's story). And I wanted to like the character of King more. He was just goofy to me.
In short, if you want a book that's well written and a fast read, you'll like this book. If you're looking for something with really deep insights into how a woman recovers from her husband suddenly walking out, this book doesn't quite live up to it's potential. Enjoy it for a light summer read
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Barely there
The author's skillful use of the language (some of the metaphors read like borderline poetry) hardly compensates for the clumsy plot (or the lack of it). Read more
Published on May 10 2007 by Murbella
1.0 out of 5 stars Would give it zero stars if I could
This book was horrible. I couldn't finish reading it, which is saying a lot because I hate to waste my hard earned money on a book that I can't read. Read more
Published on July 5 2004 by K. Morgan
3.0 out of 5 stars Just OK
Expected more from this book than what I got. It's a quick read, and Berg's style is brilliant, but the storyline leaves something to be desired.
Published on June 11 2004 by Joleen
4.0 out of 5 stars A 4.5
I really enjoyed this book. It was my first Elizabeth Berg book that I read. I loved the flow of the book and the characters and the plot. Read more
Published on June 2 2004 by dicey23
2.0 out of 5 stars Take a Pass if you want...anything
Slow...kept waiting for something to happen and it never did. The end should ahve been in the middle and a whole other ending created. Read more
Published on May 26 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Open House
"Open House" is a delightful summer read. It approaches the devastating, sudden abandonment of a spouse with heartfelt sympathy and courage. Read more
Published on April 28 2004 by A.E.B.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Spouse Walked Out
The most recent book I read was Open House by Elizabeth Berg.
The story was about forty-two year old Samantha Morrow. Read more
Published on April 26 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars Another good book
This was one of those books you start reading and can't stop. Berg has a way of bringing her characters to life and making you love eachone.
Published on Feb. 14 2004 by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it!
I loved this book! It brings to mind McCrae's Bark of the Dogwood or Baldacci's Wish you Well. Moving and heart-felt. Highly recommended. Read more
Published on Feb. 8 2004
4.0 out of 5 stars Definitely worth reading but don't expect much.
This was a better than average cheesy novel, and I can appreciate that. There wasn't the normal groans at cliched situations. Read more
Published on Feb. 2 2004
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