Review: What We Keep by Elizabeth Berg

what we keepThis is the fifth Berg novel I’ve read and I assume it’s pretty safe at this point to admit that I’m a fan of her work. I devoured this one on a snowy, cold Saturday when there was truly nothing better to do than curl up on the couch under a blanket with a good book. I was surprised at how quickly I breezed through the pages; usually Berg’s writing takes me longer to get through because I have to pause and absorb the depth of character and emotion that is rife throughout.

What kept me engaged was the flashing back through time that main character Ginny experiences while she is flying to see her mother, with whom she has been estranged for thirty-five years. After telling her seat mate on the plane that her mother was a terrible person, I was intrigued at what her mother had done to merit such disdain from her daughter. As Ginny looks back as an adult at the events which caused her mother to walk out on her father, Ginny, and her sister Sharla, she has a different filter by which she views the choices her mother made.

What We Keep captures the perspective of a 12-year-old girl who is just beginning to navigate the complexity of the adult world. She wonders at their beautiful and mysterious new neighbor, Jasmine, who befriends her mother. She experiences her first kiss and with it, a profound experience that stays with her even as an adult. It’s easy to relate to Ginny because we were all that age once, we all made these discoveries ourselves.

If you’re a stranger to Berg’s work, this may be a good one to start with. As a seasoned Berg reader, I’d rank this among my favorite works of hers.

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