Random House Readers Circle
Right Curve
Sidebar topper
Divider
Divider
Divider
Divider

Posts Tagged ‘Elizabeth Berg’

Reader’s Guide: TAPESTRY OF FORTUNES by Elizabeth Berg

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

Berg_Tapestry of FortunesAs you and your book club prepare your discussions of Elizabeth Berg’s Tapestry of Fortunes, we’d like to share this special Random House Reader’s Circle material to get the conversation going. Enjoy!

QUESTIONS AND TOPICS FOR DISCUSSION

1. Cecelia is a motivational speaker who preaches that “getting lost is the only way to find what you didn’t know you were looking for” (8). Do you think Cecelia is able to take her own advice? How does moving in with Lise, Joni, and Renie help her explore this philosophy?

2. Throughout the novel, Cecelia and the other women often rely on her box of fortunes to help them search for answers to their big questions. How do these answers affect their decision-making? Do their fortunes make a difference, or is it something else that ultimately guides them to these answers?

3. “I, the motivational speaker, have not been able to motivate myself into making a new life without her,” Cecelia says, referring to Penny’s death (10). What eventually changes for Cecelia and enables her to start a new life? Does Penny play a part in this change, even after her death?

4. When Brice, Penny’s husband, tells Cece that he is getting re- married, she is initially surprised, but also happy that he is moving on. “People with people, good. People alone, bad,” Penny always used to say to Cece (35). Is it difficult for Cece to heed this advice? Why might it be easier for Brice?

5. Soon after Cece receives the postcard from Dennis, she decides to go visit him. What makes Cece so certain about seeing him again? Do you ever get over your first love? How might this relate to Lise’s situation?

6. When Cece moves into the house, Renie is initially defensive and skeptical. Her career as a columnist, too, highlights her skeptical and sarcastic tendencies. Why do you think Renie shows only this side of herself for much of the novel? How are the other women eventually able to uncover the more sensitive side of Renie?

7. When Cece volunteers at the Arms and meets Michael, she opens up to him about Penny’s death. She explains that it was “one of the most beautiful experiences” of her life (124). What does Cece mean about Penny’s death being beautiful? How does that beauty continue to influence Cece’s life?

8. Renie asks the women whether they believe in the truth of the saying “Be kind, for everyone is carrying a heavy burden” (174). Wanda, the waitress they meet during the road trip, asserts that although not everyone carries a heavy burden, everyone does carry the burden of fear (175). How is this “burden of fear” a theme throughout the novel?

9. Mother-daughter relationships are central to the story: Renie struggles with meeting her estranged daughter; Lise’s daughter urges her not to reunite with her ex-husband after their divorce; Cece grows annoyed with her mother for acting more like a girlfriend than a parent (110). What makes a mother-daughter relationship so special? What makes it so fraught, and sometimes difficult?

10. After Michael dies, Cece remembers a conversation that she and Penny once had: Cece asked, “What’s the point in loving anything when it will just change or be taken away?,” and Penny replied, “The point in loving is only that. And when you lose something, you have to remember that then there is room for the next thing. And there is always a next thing.” (213) How does this idea relate to the broader theme of the novel? What is the “next thing” that Cece, Phoebe, and the other characters manage to find?

11. Toward the end of the novel, Cece mentions something that Dennis said about photography, which she feels reverberates in her own life: “The greatest understanding of a thing is when you can’t reduce it any further.” (217) How does this statement relate to Cece’s views on love and friendship? How might it relate to your own?

12. Lise, Joni, Renie, and Cecelia are all very different. What do you think makes their relationships with one another thrive, in spite of their differences? Consider how this relates to the quote at the end of the novel: “We are a convergence of fates, a tapestry of fortunes in colors both somber and bright, each contributing equally to the Whole.” (218–19)

Stay up to date with Elizabeth on Facebook!

Feature Essay: Elizabeth Berg, author of TAPESTRY OF FORTUNES, on Visiting a Psychic

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

Berg_Tapestry of Fortunes Elizabeth Berg is the author of many bestselling novels as well as two works of nonfiction. Tapestry of Fortunes is a New York Times bestseller and follows four women as they venture into their pasts in order to shape their futures, fates, and fortunes. Today, she shares a special story with us about a time when she went to visit a psychic!

THE “HOLD ON A SECOND” PSYCHIC BY ELIZABETH BERG

When I wrote Tapestry of Fortunes, I knew I wanted to include aspects of divination. It was for whimsical as well as more serious reasons. I wouldn’t say I believe entirely in the prognostic statements of Runes or Tarot cards or people who call themselves psychics, but there can be times when readings are eerily dead on. One of the first times I went to a psychic, I had a lot of fun with a pretty eccentric character. But there was something about the experience that let me know there was more to the business of inquiring of the oracle than I had thought. Here’s what happened.

Claire Brightwater is the proprietor of Earth Dancer Gallery. This is a shop situated over a shoe store and next to a weight loss clinic. You can buy all kinds of Native American things there: kachina dolls, beautiful stones, feathers, books and tapes, blankets and jewelry and medicine wheels. Also, you can take advantage of Claire’s psychic abilities. You know she has them because of the sign in her window. PSYCHIC, it says.

So I make an appointment for a reading. And when I arrive, I’m a little late and apologetic and out of breath. “Sorry,” I say. “Sorry.” She holds up her bracelet-laden arm. “No problem.” She pulls a chair up next to her desk. “Here,” she says. “Sit down. Center yourself.” She has long, flaming-red hair. She is wearing a purple shawl and a colorful, long skirt and many rings. She is a wonder to behold, one of those women who look so good overweight that you want to be overweight, too. I put my jacket and purse on the floor and she says, “No, you have to get centered,” and puts my purse under me and my jacket behind me. “There,” she says. “Now, I’ll just pay some bills here while you hold some crystals.” She puts a pink one in my right hand and a purple one in my left. While she makes out checks, I hold the crystals tight. I see another homemade sign against one of the counters. NO PLASTIC. CHECKS OKAY. BARTERING OKAY. In a little while, she looks up. “Okay?” I nod. She checks the pink crystal. “This is for love,” she says. “Your heart is full of love.” She nods, agreeing with herself. “Yes. Very beautiful.” Then she takes the purple crystal. “This is for stress,” she says. “This is cold. You got a lot of stress.” Now I nod, thinking, Well, I’m alive on the earth. Why wouldn’t I have stress? Claire’s advice to me about stress is this: “You need to go back to the earth. You need to lie down on it, first on your back, arms and legs spread out. Then lie on your front, and listen to the pulse of the earth.” This sounds like fine advice to me. I used to do it all the time when I was a kid. And I had much less stress then, come to think of it.

She tells me she sees a lot of oscillating around me. “You’re going back and forth, back and forth inside, aren’t you?” We stare intently at each other. The phone rings. “Excuse me,” she says. Then, into the phone, “Hello, Earth Dancer Gallery.” I’m thinking, wait a minute. What kind of reading is this? But she takes care of the call and is back to me. She tells me to pull an I Ching card, and I get “Retreat.” That sounds good, I tell her. Yes. I definitely need a vacation. Claire suddenly jerks her head up, stares into space. “No . . . note . . .NOTORIETY!” she says. She looks at me. “This word, it just came to me! Are you trying to be famous or something?”

“Well,” I say, “I guess we’d all like to be famous. But I don’t know if notoriety is the word I’d pick.”

The UPS man comes. Claire tells me to hold on, she’ll be right back. She goes over to the counter to pay the man, has a little chat with him. Sixty dollars I paid for this, I’m thinking. Jeez.

Next we do animal cards. Claire is an all-around kind of psychic. Turns out I’m an owl. “You need to go into the dark for the light,” Claire tells me. “That’s what this card is saying.” Well, I’m all for op- posites. You know, the blond beauty, held in the arms of the strong, handsome man, says, “Oh, I hate you, I hate you, I hate you!” just before she kisses him to death. There’s something to opposites.

The phone rings again. Claire tells the caller, “He’s not here. Can I take a message?” She writes something down, hangs up. “It’s time for you to wear a feather in your hair, yes?” she asks me. She picks one out for me. Two dollars.

Now, I know how this is sounding. But the notion of wearing a feather is actually quite appealing. As is lying on the earth. As is a retreat. I’m starting to feel kind of happy. I ask Claire what music is playing in the background. It’s very, very soothing. I want it. It’s “Lazaris Remembers Lemuria,” she tells me. Just so happens I can buy one from her.

“Have you been feeling tired?” Claire asks.

“Yes!” I say. And I really have. Not just I don’t want to do the dishes tired. I’ve been deep tired.

She nods. “All the women around here are tired,” she says. “It’s because of our connection to the earth. The earth is having a very hard time giving birth to spring this year, and we all feel it.”

A customer comes in, a woman just looking. “I’m doing a reading,” Claire says, “but just let me know if you need any help.” A few minutes later, there’s another phone call, someone wanting to know about the upcoming pipe ceremony. Claire tells them all about it.

“Your work, you need to pay attention to what comes from the heart.” She looks at me, shakes her head. “You will have great success.”

Another customer, a teenage boy wearing a T-shirt featuring crystals, looking for bumper stickers. No bumper stickers. But Claire sells him some little rocks.

We finish up and I realize I am feeling calmer and more centered than I have in a long time. Some of what Claire said felt silly. And some of it felt scary-true. Whatever has happened, I feel better than I ever have after any therapy session. Plus I got a feather and a tape and permission to lie down on the earth.

I guess what I believe is that there is much to the unconscious that we can learn from and be guided by. Is using some tool for fortune telling one of them? Maybe you should find out for yourself. If you’re not enlightened, you’ll at least be entertained. That’s my prediction.

Stay up to date with Elizabeth Berg on Facebook! Tapestry of Fortunes hits bookshelves in paperback on April 8th.

Happy Mother’s Day from Random House Reader’s Circle!

Friday, May 10th, 2013

Screen shot 2013-05-10 at 12.04.15 PM Happy Mother’s Day from our reading circle to yours! Whether you are looking for a good book to read around this holiday OR if you are a little late buying a gift for that special someone and you need a few suggestions then we have some great picks for you!

Tapestry of Fortunes by New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Berg follows four women from different walks of life who end up living in a house together. These women take a road trip together for various reasons having to do with choices they made in the past, and choices they were needing to make now. In doing so, they realize that leaving home brings revelations, reunions, and unexpected turns that affirm the inner truths of women’s lives. Read an excerpt.

The Language of Flowers, a debut novel by book club favorite Vanessa Diffenbaugh, follows Victoria Jones who feels unable to get too close to anyone after a childhood spent in foster care. Her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings based on the Victorian language of flowers. Read an excerpt.

Marcus Samuelsson tells his amazing global story in his memoir Yes, Chef. Born in Ethiopia and adopted by Swedish parents, Marcus Samuelsson grows up to become a world-renowned chef. This book is his love letter to food and family in all its manifestations. Yes, Chef chronicles Samuelsson’s journey, from his grandmother’s kitchen to his arrival in New York City, where his outsize talent and ambition finally come together at Aquavit, earning him a New York Times three-star rating at the age of twenty-four. Read an excerpt.

In her irresistible memoir, Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake, Anna Quindlen writes about a woman’s life, from childhood memories to manic motherhood to middle age, using the events of her life to illuminate ours. Quindlen talks about everything from marriage to motherhood, parenting, and our bodies. Read an excerpt.

Also, one lucky winner will receive ALL FOUR BOOKS! Enter below.

Win a paperback of Elizabeth Berg’s novel ONCE UPON A TIME, THERE WAS YOU

Thursday, September 8th, 2011

berg_elizabethOnce Upon a Time There was You TPEven on their wedding day, John and Irene sensed that they were about to make a mistake. Years later, divorced, dating other people, and living in different parts of the country, they seem to have nothing in common—nothing except the most important person in each of their lives: Sadie, their spirited eighteen-year-old daughter. Feeling smothered by Irene and distanced from John, Sadie is growing more and more attached to her new boyfriend, Ron. When tragedy strikes, Irene and John come together to support the daughter they love so dearly. What takes longer is to remember how they really feel about each other. Elizabeth Berg’s immense talent shines in this unforgettable novel about the power of love, the unshakeable bonds of family, and the beauty of second chances.

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to the overwhelming number of you who entered!

An incredibly touching, must-read fan letter to author Elizabeth Berg

Tuesday, June 7th, 2011

About a month ago, bestselling author Elizabeth Berg received this letter from Vanessa Shaw in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s not just an example of a great message from a reader to an author; it’s a powerful testament to fiction’s ability to touch our lives. We couldn’t resist sharing it–please forward it to anyone in your life who loves to read!

May 5, 2011

Dear Elizabeth,

I live in Phoenix. I am 33 and have been married for 10 years in November. My husband, Gary, and I have five young children: Owen, Annabelle, Miles, Margaret, and Charlotte (8, 7, 5, 4, 3, respectively). We are Catholic (did you guess?) and for the past few years, we have all given up television for Lent. This year, I also decided to read. In the period of about 40 days, I read over half of your books, some in one sitting, some in two days, one I downloaded to listen to.

I am moved by your writing. I have taken away a special kind of wisdom from each story, from each character. We are going through a difficult time now as my husband battles some kind of illness that is not diagnosed yet, despite our visits to Barrow Neurological Institute. Going to Mayo Clinic this month is giving us new hope, though.

I share about his issue so that you will know of your impact on how I am dealing with it. My learned or natural way of being would be to become distant and robotic in taking on the caregiver role with him. I would distance myself out of protection, out of a desire to survive this challenge emotionally and to still take care of my children’s needs and my own. But after I read your words, in various books, I was able to shift my way of being to really treasure every moment–a goal I am constantly renewing within myself–but now it’s less of a conscious renewal and more natural.

When I read your words, I feel like you’re speaking for me, like I’m the one dealing with the issue at hand, like I’m the one who is hurting or healing or finding her way. It’s like being able to live life surrogately (which is definitely not a word!), having all of the benefits of living another’s life yet still getting to live in my own world. Then I can apply what I learn from you and your characters’ lives to my own life–and it’s lasting, too. It’s not a new wave of false hope or something I could ever forget about or lose interest in.

The way that your characters experience life, especially their ability to push themselves through their depression and pain, has taught me so much. It’s like I needed to be shown an example. I know all women deal with the things I deal with in my head. I know they do, but another thing about me is that I don’t open up very easily. People I “know” seem to want to believe what they want to believe about me and my life, based on our blessings, our appearance, or whatever, so it’s not often that when I do share, that they even HEAR what I’m saying about depression, eating issues, body image disorder, daily struggles of being an educated, accomplished women who stays home to serve her family, marriage, etc. I’ve really given up on people; I don’t trust anyone fully.

If I had the types of real friendships that many of your characters either had, have or develop, then I would likely have many of the same types of conversations. I’d bare my soul and tell the real truth about how I struggle. I do see the benefit of taking risks and trying to build the friendships I have from high school, from college, and even some new moms at my kids’ school. Funny to say “risk” and “friendships” in relation to each other, but for me, it really is a risk. I’d be risking my precious time; I could be with my kids or Gary instead of them. I’d be risking so much just by saying the truth and not knowing for sure if they would really get me or take it our of context, or gossip or judge. It makes me anxious to think it. But I now believe it is possible to have at least one real friend besides my husband.

Thank you for taking the time to write your books. Thank you for using your life experience and your imagination to share stories that have made a marked difference in my life.

Sincerely,

Vanessa Shaw

Win a paperback of Elizabeth Berg’s The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted

Monday, May 2nd, 2011

Day I Ate Whatever I WantedFinally coming to trade paperback on May 31, now with an additional story!

Every now and then, right in the middle of an ordinary day, a woman kicks up her heels and commits a small act of liberation. What would you do if you could shed the “shoulds” and do, say—and eat—whatever you really desired? Go AWOL from Weight Watchers and spend an entire day eating every single thing you want? Start a dating service for people over fifty to reclaim the razzle-dazzle in your life—or your marriage? Seek comfort in the face of aging, look for love in the midst of loss, find friendship in the most surprising of places? In these beautiful, funny stories, Elizabeth Berg takes us into the heart of the lives of women who do all these things and more—confronting their true feelings, desires, and joys along the way.

“Reading The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted is a lot like eating comfort food: it offers great satisfaction. . . . Berg understands the need we all feel to break free of strictures . . . and how small rebellions can lead to understanding.”—New York Post

“Offer this up to the book club and—what the hell—serve chocolate.”People

Winners will be chosen randomly. We regret we can send copies to U.S. residents only. One entry per person; while supplies last.

This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered!


A new novel (plus a recipe) from Elizabeth Berg: Once Upon a Time, There Was You

Monday, April 4th, 2011

berg_elizabethDear Reader,

It’s that time of year again, near-spring, when I’m one step short of going out and tugging on whatever shoots of green I can find. I am heartened by the sight of robins everywhere, even if the buds on the trees remain tightly closed.  Spring is an exercise in having faith and learning patience: It will come, when it’s ready; and then I can engage in my favorite practice of sitting on the front porch and watching  dogs walk by with their people.

On April 5, Random House will release my new novel,  Once Upon a Time, There Was You. This is the story of a long-divorced couple who are thrust together again after something terrible happens to the only thing they still have in common: their 18 year old daughter.  I wanted to see what happened if you put two people who used to be in an intimate relationship, but now are estranged, back together. Would they remember what they used to love about each other? Would they see all over again what they hated? Might they get back together again?

The other day, I was doing an interview for this novel, and I told the woman interviewing me that I was struck by howOnce Upon a Time There Was You many times I’ve heard people—both men and women, but mostly women—say they walked down the aisle knowing it was the wrong this to do, but they did it anyway. The interviewer paused, then said, “That’s what I did. And I got divorced. But then we got back together.” Bingo! I thought, what changed in those two people that made them able to be with each other in a way they could not be before? What does marriage require, really? What does the act of loving honestly and fully require? That’s the kind of thing my novel looks at.

It wouldn’t be a book of mine if it didn’t also celebrate female friendship. And there is, as usual, a mix of humor and pathos. But there is also something brand new, which is suspense. An element of real creepiness. But I’ll just keep you in…well, suspense about what that is.

I recently read a quote by Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach that I loved, which says, “An interesting book is food that makes us hungry.” I hope that’s what my book does. In addition to being an enjoyable read that makes you laugh and perhaps tear up a little, too, I want it to make you think, to make you wonder, to take a look at your own life in new ways. If that happens, we’ll both be satisfied.

Thank you for reading this letter, thanks for buying my books, and most of all, thanks for making the dream of a 9-year old with crooked bangs and a heart full of longing to share what she felt inside,  come true.

Sincerely,

Elizabeth

A Recipe for Readers

Mexican Chicken

2 eggs

Green salsa (Frontera’s tomatillo, if you can find it)

¼ t. salt

1 cup fine bread crumbs (I use whole wheat)

1 t. each chili powder and ground cumin

¾ t. garlic salt

14 t. oregano

3 whole boneless skinless chicken breasts

4 T. butter

6 cups lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces

1 cup sour cream

4 green onions, including part of green top, thinly sliced

12 cherry tomatoes, cut in wedges

2 limes, cut in wedges

1 ripe avocado

Put butter in shallow baking pan and put in 375 degree oven to melt. In shallow bowl, beat eggs, then add salsa and salt. In large ziplock bag, mix breadcrumbs and spices. Dip breasts in salsa mix, then shake with crumbs; repeat. When butter has melted, add breasts, turn to coat, and bake for  about 35 minutes.

To serve, arrange on lettuce; garnish with sour cream, onions, tomatoes, lime wedges, avocado, and more salsa, red or green. Makes 4-6 servings.  Great with cornbread!

***

Buy the hardcover: Amazon / Barnes & Noble / IndieBound / Random House
Buy the eBook: Amazon / Barnes & Noble

How the passing of time sweetens high school reunions: a message from bestselling author Elizabeth Berg

Monday, November 8th, 2010

The Last time I Saw YouDear readers,

When I wrote my latest novel, Once Upon a Time, There Was You, I included a scene of two middle-aged women, old friends, taking their clothes off so each could inspect the other’s body. This was ostensibly so that one of the women could be reassured that the man who just dumped her did not do so because of her body. Alas, the “consolation” she receives is her friend saying, “Oh, hon. this is not the time of our bodies.”

I suppose this could be seen as sad. But maybe it’s not. Maybe along with all the trials and tribulations of getting older, comes a kind of compensation that makes it all worth while. I’m not talking about wisdom, here, although I think that comes, too, albeit slowly, especially in some people. (People like me, if you must know.) I’m not talking about grandchildren, either, although—oh, well, don’t even get me started on grandchildren. That would be a whole other essay. That would be a whole other book.

What I’m talking about is something I learned after having written The Last Time I Saw You. I wrote a novel about attending a high school reunion without ever having attended a high school reunion. After the book came out, many people thought I’d gone to a reunion and taken a lot of notes, and eavesdropped on a lot of conversations. They said –and wrote, on book review sites–that I did this, and they said with great authority that I did this. Well. I went out on tour and revealed the truth: I had never been to a high school reunion, unless you call the one my military-base high school in Germany had—in San Antonio, Texas. That reunion included far more than one year, and I didn’t know a lot of the people who came because the population was ever shifting. But I never attended the typical high school reunion, where the class of X gets together, and nearly all the people know each other, and were together for four years.

So. There I am on tour, talking proudly about how I never went to a reunion and I guess I fooled you! But a question kept coming up at a lot of the readings I did, and it was this: Why were the characters in the book stopping at the fortieth reunion? Why was that one the last one? I explained that it had to be the last, so it would compel people who might not otherwise come, to show up—people like Lester, the shy veterinarian, and Mary Alice, the class nerd. And also, I explained, I thought that after the 40th, people would have had enough. But I was so wrong. Time after time, people told me they went to their 45th reunion, their 50th and beyond. They told me that the more years that had passed since graduation, the better the reunions were. One woman said, “You know, at my twentieth reunion, it was all about competition. At my 40th, it was all about friendship.” And I inferred from all the people who told me stories about reunions long after the 40th, that those reunions are all about kindness to one other, and a gratitude at being able to see each other again that deepens every year. In this time of giving thanks, I gratefully acknowledge that what I learned makes me happy to be growing older. Tell me how else that might happen!

I hope you enjoy The Last Time I Saw You and feel compelled to share it with your book club!

Warmly,

Elizabeth Berg

Shoe
Bertelsmann Media Worldwide