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Open House (Oprah's Book Club) Paperback – May 1 2001


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Product Details

  • Paperback
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (May 1 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099416573
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099416579
  • Product Dimensions: 19.4 x 13 x 2.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 181 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (276 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,322,980 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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I DRESS TO BRING IN THE MORNING PAPER. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

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By Allyn on April 7 2004
Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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Format: Paperback
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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