Some authors have the uncanny ability to create characters I feel like I’ve met. Elizabeth Berg is one such author. Her “Once Upon a Time, There Was You,” includes a well-rounded cast of characters I could’ve gone to school with or worked with for years. I feel like I know them, and am genuinely interested in what they think and do.
“There Was You” begins with a short prologue. It’s the wedding day of the two main characters, John and Irene Marsh. They both have serious reservations about the marriage, but family and friends convince them to take their vows.
The first chapter fast forwards the story 20 years. John and Irene are divorced and live in different states, John in Minnesota and Irene in California. It’s been many years since they’ve seen each other. Their only child, 18-year-old Sadie, lives with Irene, but remains close with John. When Sadie wants to gain her mom’s permission to go an overnight rock climbing adventure, she enlists John to help. Eventually, both parents agree to the trip, except the trip itself is a ruse; Sadie’s real plan is to spend time alone with her boyfriend.
Of course, something goes wrong with Sadie’s plan, and the girl finds herself in a dangerous situation. John flies to California, and he and Irene live together as they try to help their daughter. Their close proximity causes them to examine their relationship, as well as their own personal strengths and flaws.
By the time Berg subjects John and Irene to real conflict, she’s made certain readers feel like they know the characters. I felt invested in the outcome of the story and wanted both main characters to find true happiness. They ultimately do, though not in the manner I would have guessed.
I picked up “There Was You” from the Pikes Peak Library District’s Rapid Read shelf, and had no trouble reading the book in the requisite seven days. In addition to “There Was You,” Berg has written more than 20 other books.
I plan on reading some of those, and will start with “Open House,” a former Oprah’s Book Club selection. “Open House” is about a woman who turns her home into a boarding house after her husband abruptly leaves her.
A blurb about each of Elizabeth Berg’s books is available on her website: Elizabeth-Berg.net.