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We Are All Welcome Here: A Novel [Paperback]

Elizabeth Berg
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

April 17 2007
Elizabeth Berg, bestselling author of The Art of Mending and The Year of Pleasures, has a rare talent for revealing her characters’ hearts and minds in a manner that makes us empathize completely. Her new novel, We Are All Welcome Here, features three women, each struggling against overwhelming odds for her own kind of freedom.

It is the summer of 1964. In Tupelo, Mississippi, the town of Elvis’s birth, tensions are mounting over civil-rights demonstrations occurring ever more frequently–and violently–across the state. But in Paige Dunn’s small, ramshackle house, there are more immediate concerns. Challenged by the effects of the polio she contracted during her last month of pregnancy, Paige is nonetheless determined to live as normal a life as possible and to raise her daughter, Diana, in the way she sees fit–with the support of her tough-talking black caregiver, Peacie.

Diana is trying in her own fashion to live a normal life. As a fourteen-year-old, she wants to make money for clothes and magazines, to slough off the authority of her mother and Peacie, to figure out the puzzle that is boys, and to escape the oppressiveness she sees everywhere in her small town. What she can never escape, however, is the way her life is markedly different from others’. Nor can she escape her ongoing responsibility to assist in caring for her mother. Paige Dunn is attractive, charming, intelligent, and lively, but her needs are great–and relentless.

As the summer unfolds, hate and adversity will visit this modest home. Despite the difficulties thrust upon them, each of the women will find her own path to independence, understanding, and peace. And Diana’s mother, so mightily compromised, will end up giving her daughter an extraordinary gift few parents could match.

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From Publishers Weekly

A polio victim and her 13-year-old daughter work miracles from their Tupelo, Miss., home during the summer of 1964 in Berg's latest carefully calibrated domestic drama (after The Year of Pleasures). Having contracted polio at 22 while pregnant, Paige Dunn delivers her baby from an iron lung, and ends up raising her daughter, Diana, alone after her husband divorces her. Able to move only her head, Paige requires round-the-clock nursing care that social services barely cover. Now 13, Diana has taken over the night shift to save them money, sharing her mother's care with no-nonsense African-American day worker Peacie, who is protective of Paige and unforgiving of Diana's adolescent yearning for freedom. Paige is a paragon of kindness and wisdom, even in the face of less-than-charitable charity by petty small-town residents, while Diana and Peacie consistently lock horns. But when Peacie's boyfriend, LaRue, ventures down the perilous path of helping register black voters during this Freedom Summer and trouble follows him, Diana will gain compassion thanks to her mother's selfless aid to LaRue and Peacie. As the novel (based on a true story) is set in Tupelo, the specter of Elvis Presley naturally intrudes, for an over-the-top, heartrending finale.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–As a student nurse, Paige Dunn once took care of Elvis Presley's mother in Tupelo, MS. She contracted polio while pregnant with her daughter and is paralyzed from the neck down. Deserted by her husband and on welfare, Paige relies on Peacie, her black daytime caregiver, and on her daughter, Diana, now 13, for help at night. The teen is devoted to her beautiful, talented mother, yet at times is resentful that her mother's needs must come before her own. When the girl wins $2500 in a contest, Paige gives most of the money to Peacie for medical care for her boyfriend, who was badly beaten for participating in a civil rights demonstration. When their social worker learns that the money that would have provided for a nighttime caregiver has been used for other expenses, she demands that the situation be remedied. Diana writes to Elvis, enclosing a song her mother had written long ago, he responds with a visit to Paige, and suddenly their life is made infinitely easier. Full of humor, devoid of self-pity, with lively characters that rise above their circumstances, this is the story of an adolescent accepting adult responsibilities, encountering the temptations of boys and booze, and experiencing the tensions between race and class in the 1960s. –Molly Connally, Chantilly Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Not her best May 14 2007
This is not one of Elizabeth Bergs best books. The characters really were
not that likable and I think she could have developed the Civil Rights
problems of that time a bit more. Elvis coming in to save the day was a
bit of a stretch!!!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  89 reviews
43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You won't be able to put it down ~ excellent!!! April 23 2006
By mamareadssomuch - Published on Amazon.com
If you are a fan of Elizabeth Berg books, then you know you are in for an emotional ride. This novel doesn't disappoint ~ I wasn't able to put it down. It opened up with a note from the author, how a fan had written to her an requested she write the story of her mother's life. Berg immediately didn't want to commit to such a task, but after learning more about this amazing woman's mother, she agreed and said it would be a fictional account. The result is amazing.

Paige Dunn is married and pregnant. She is diagnosed with Polio and delivers her baby, Diana, in an iron lung. Paige lives in the lung for three years; her husband leaves her and after that time in the hospital, she is able to return home to the care of two caregivers in order to raise her daughter, as best as she is able. The time is 1964 and the story is set in Tupelo, MS. The plot is woven with civil rights, sweepstakes and an Elvis surprise in the ending is a twist!

Diana is thirteen when the story opens and in her forties by the end of the book. The novel is a testament to a lovely, beautiful woman, Paige Dunn, and her strong will to live her life as it is (she can only move her head) and raise her daughter, whom she loves so much.

The title is significant because it touches on several characters in the book. WE ARE ALL WELCOME HERE had me absorbed from page one. I urge you to read it and be moved too!
18 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't put it down! Oct. 6 2006
By J. B. Morian - Published on Amazon.com
This was a wonderful book! Elizabeth Berg has done it again with a fascinating story about a an adult woman polio survivor, her adolescent daughter, and her housekeeper/friend. She provided some thought provoking issues regarding the difficulties encountered by a single mother that is handicapped, the responsibilities of a child to a parent and vice versa, and how sometimes "family" comes in the form of someone not related by blood.

This was one of those books that made you feel that you know the characters. I was sorry when the book came to an end. I highly recommend it!
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it! April 14 2006
By A. Hansen - Published on Amazon.com
A heartwarming story. I learned interesting things in this book. For example, one of the main characters had polio and can only move her head...however, she can feel everything! I didn't know that was possible! So, not only do you learn a little, you are entertained by a wonderful story about friendship, parenting, the race problems of the 60's, and of coarse...growing up. What's not to love? This is a book that's rather short, but not short in it's story. Sometimes just as you learn about the characters the story ends. Not in this case. Berg did a good job letting us know the characters and finishing the book up in a way we feel content. I don't think you'll waste your time at all!!
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An emotional story! April 15 2006
By Armchair Interviews - Published on Amazon.com
It's not often that a fan letter can prompt a book, but such is the case in Elizabeth Berg's fifteenth novel, We Are All Welcome Here. The story has its roots in real life but the characters and the plot are purely from Berg's imagination and the story is as richly developed as her other works.

In 1951, Paige Dunn is a vibrant young woman, twenty-two years old, nine months pregnant, and happily married. Then she contracts polio. The fact that she was able to deliver a healthy baby girl while in an iron lung is an amazing feat all in itself. Paige is a strong-willed and, despite her husband leaving her, is determined to raise Diana. She hires caregivers, moves into a small, two-bedroom home in Tupelo, Mississippi, and moves on with life. She spends the next three years in that dreaded machine and the rest of her life on a respirator.

The story picks up in 1964. Thirteen-year-old Diana's best friend is neighbor Suralee Holloway. The two put on plays they've written, go into town for an ice cream cone, dream about boys, and collect Sweetnuf box tops.

While the story is told from Diana's point of view, the overpowering presence of Paige and her self-determination take center stage. She may only be able to move her head, but she is a mother first and foremost, guiding and disciplining her growing daughter.

In the background is the Civil Rights Movement. The daytime caregiver, Peacie, and her boyfriend, LaRue, become actively involved. Then there are the social workers who monitor Paige and Diana's caregivers. The reader soon realizes that little had changed in that arena. And of course, there is the shadow of Elvis. You cannot have a story set in the sixties in Tupelo, Mississippi, without mentioning the King.

Without a doubt, Berg captures the feminine voice and mind in We Are All Welcome Here. She always does. But not since her third novel, Talk Before Sleep, has Berg been so poignant and eloquent, turning trouble into laughter, tears into smiles and longings into realities.

Armchair Interviews says: An emotional story of a time of great turmoil and change in our country, how polio affected so many, and of course, civil rights issues.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Come back to us, Elizabeth! May 13 2007
By My Inner Chick - Published on Amazon.com
I absolutely love Elizabeth Berg--and I've read everything by her, but I am still waiting for her "Talk Before Sleep," "Pull of the Moon," and "When the Real Thing Comes Along," voice. I will wait forever if I must--because I know 'that voice' is dying to emerge: That voice with insight, charm, wisdom, and wit; that voice that goes directly to the heart and holds it between the teeth.

"We Are All Welcome Here" has its moments, but those moments are few and in between. For example, Peacie is a brilliant, diamond like character. She is the reason I continued reading. I mean, we all know somebody like Peacie--one who is externally hard, but internally beautiful. This one characterzation of Peacie cannot make this book work, though. The other characters, even the mother, Paige, are flat and non-demensional.

But I loved the part about Elvis Presley. This added suprise and excitement. But it still wasn't enough to help the book.

I am waiting, Elizabeth---Come back! Come back! Bring your readers that old, gorgeous voice; the one where you never held back, the one that made us love you from the very beginning.
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