Open House (2000)

by Elizabeth Berg

Elizabeth Berg's great strength is creating characters whom readers identify with and care for. Samantha Morrow, the protagonist of Open House, is very sympathetic: Not only is she unaffected, warm, and genuine, her husband has left her and their 11-year-old son.

Sam understandably is reeling at first and engages in uncharacteristic behavior, like running up a $12,000 charge at Tiffany's. (Of course, she thought soon-to-be-ex David would pay for it.) She makes changes that her mother isn't so sure about but that seem reasonable given that she needs money: taking in boarders and going to work for a temp agency. She tries dating and is humiliated. Meanwhile, a man whom Sam doesn't at first see as a romantic partner — the overweight and sexually inexperienced King (yes, that's his given name) — is becoming one of her most significant supports.

We want Sam to land on her feet, but it could be argued that love saves her too soon and too predictably. Furthermore, King turns into a
more conventional hero than he originally seemed; he's shedding pounds rapidly and discloses that he has a degree from MIT but prefers to work in temp jobs. But this fault-finding may be beside the point; one of the pleasures of reading Berg is knowing that her heroines are going to be all right.


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