Summary and book reviews of The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg

The Year of Pleasures

By Elizabeth Berg

The Year of Pleasures
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2005,
    224 pages.
    Paperback: Mar 2006,
    288 pages.

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Book Summary

In this rich and deeply satisfying novel by the beloved author of The Art of Mending, and Open House, a resilient woman embarks upon an unforgettable journey of adventure, self-discovery, and renewal.

Betta Nolan moves to a small town after the death of her husband to try to begin anew. Pursuing a dream of a different kind of life, she is determined to find pleasure in her simply daily routines. Among those who help her in both expected and unexpected ways are the ten-year-old boy next door, three wild women friends from her college days, a twenty-year-old who is struggling to find his place in the world, and a handsome man who is ready for love.

Elizabeth Berg's The Year of Pleasures is about acknowledging the solace found in ordinary things: a warm bath, good food, the beauty of nature, music, friends, and art. "Berg writes with humor and a big heart about resilience, loneliness, love, and hope. And the transcendence that redeems," said Andre Dubus about Durable Goods. And the same could be said about The Year of Pleasures.

Excerpt
The Year of Pleasures

I had been right to want to drive to the Midwest, taking only the back roads. Every time my husband, John, and I had taken a trip more than a few miles away, we'd flown, and had endured the increasingly irritating airport protocols. I'd finally begun to wear what amounted to pajamas so that I wouldn't have to all but strip before security guards who seemed either worrisomely bored or, equally worrisome, inflated with a mirthful self-importance. It was hard to believe that air travel had ever been considered glamorous, when now what most people felt was a seesawing between anxiety and exasperation. "Well, folks, looks like our time has been pushed back again," the captain would say, and everyone would shake their heads and snap their newspapers and mutter to their neighbor. And if there was unexpected turbulence, a quivering silence fell.

Now, on this road trip, my mind seemed to uncrinkle, to breathe, to ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Betta’s departure from Boston at the beginning of the book is abrupt, even rushed. Is her choice to move so quickly a good one? What is she running away from, and what is she running toward?

  2. In the early pages of the book, while driving to the Midwest with all her belongings in tow, Betta finds a kind of freedom and relaxation on the road. What does moving, or even driving, have to do with this release Betta feels?

  3. Betta refers to a belief that one is sometimes closer to someone after death than before. What does she mean when she says this? Have you experienced this, in your own life?

  4. Moving to a new place fulfills a promise Betta had with John, but she makes the move alone. Discuss ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

There is little effort at cohesion--rather, a kind of serendipitous plot that goes every which way and a series of tentative, aborted romances. The impression readers will be left with is of a woman endlessly nurturing and rarely satisfied.

Kirkus Reviews

The prolific Berg champions middle-aged craziness in an impossibly sunny soap opera....Unhappiness, in Berg's world, isn't an option.

Library Journal - Caroline M Hallsworth

Berg's talents grow richer with each book....Poignant, intimate, and hopeful, this is a novel to read, treasure, and share. Highly recommended.

Reader Reviews
Lynnette Krause

Moving and Entertaining
Elizabeth Berg never fails to move me. She knows how to touch on every emotion there is and she has such a way with words. She knows how to make me laugh, cry, or just smile at those little ordinary things that we all take for granted in life. I did...   Read More

Becca

My thoughts
I agree with most of what susan said except I do not see how their relationship was unrealistic. What do you consider a realistic relationship? Hating each other and wanting to get out of it every day of your life? They never said that they did not ...   Read More

Susan

Disappointment
This is my first Elizabeth Berg novel. I was excited to read it because of all the great reviews. I was very disappointed, even to the point of being uninterested in ever reading her again. I did feel that Ms. Berg must have done alot of reasearch on...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Before she became a full time writer Berg was a registered nurse (also a waitress, chicken washer, rock 'n' roll singer and information clerk) which gave her the inside track when writing Range of Motion, Talk Before Sleep and Never Change which all deal with differing health crises.

Most of her novels stand-alone, but three feature the same character - the young pre-teen/teenager and 'army brat', Katie Nash. Berg says that she never meant to write a sequel, let alone ...

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