When your mood runs more toward cozy than chic, turn to Elizabeth Berg, an author with a great talent for comfort. Home Safe, her latest novel, is a perfect antidote to everyday chaos.
Here we meet Helen Ames, a novelist and recent widow struggling to adjust to the untimely death of her husband, the declining health of her parents, and her daughter Tessa's desire to be taken seriously as an adult. Helen's husband sheltered his wife from life's difficulties, and Helen embraced, even clung to, her position as caretaker. After his death, she discovers that her provider mysteriously spent the bulk of their savings, and she is suddenly forced to navigate the course of her life. For a woman so used to drifting with the current, the change is difficult. Fortunately, in the hands of a pro like Berg, "tender" doesn't translate to "weak," and we can identify with Helen even as she is reluctant to make brave decisions about her future.
The conversations between Helen and her daughter are so authentic they can feel uncomfortable to read. Berg's trademark musings about life are particularly effective coming through Helen, a character who is constantly sharing helpful anecdotes that charm her readers and annoy her daughter.
Plot twists and tricky relationships are sure to keep readers interested, but Berg's goal isn't to force us through an emotional wringer. It's no surprise to readers of Berg's previous works that Home Safe ends on a pleasant note, but getting to the destination is a joy, and walking Helen's path for a few hours helps us better understand our own.
Reading this new effort from Berg is like listening to a favorite storyteller. We may predict where her voice will rise and fall, and the story and characters may feel familiar, but joining in the story is a pleasure, a comfort in a world too often filled with hardship.
Carrie Rollwagen has uncomfortable conversations with her own mother in Birmingham, Alabama.