Home Safe: A Novel

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Home Safe: A Novel

by Elizabeth Berg

Random House Publishing Group | September 29, 2009 | Trade Paperback

4 out of 5 rating. 1 Reviews
In this stunning novel, beloved bestselling author Elizabeth Berg weaves a beautifully written and richly resonant story of a mother and daughter in emotional transit. Helen Ames-recently widowed, coping with grief, unable to do the work that has always sustained her-is beginning to depend too much on her twenty-seven-year-old daughter, Tessa, meddling in her life and offering unsolicited advice. Then Helen is shocked to discover that her mild-mannered and seemingly loyal husband was apparently leading a double life. When a phone call from a stranger sets Helen on a surprising path of discovery, both mother and daughter reassess what they thought they knew about each other, themselves, and what really makes a home and a family.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 288 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.39 in

Published: September 29, 2009

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345487559

ISBN - 13: 9780345487551

Found in: Fiction

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– More About This Product –

Home Safe: A Novel

Home Safe: A Novel

by Elizabeth Berg

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 288 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.39 in

Published: September 29, 2009

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345487559

ISBN - 13: 9780345487551

About the Book

The bestselling author of "The Year of Pleasures" and "Open House" returns with a wonderful novel in which a woman and her daughter embark on new adventures.

Read from the Book

Chapter One “Mom,” Helen’s daughter says. “Mom. Mom. Mom. Don’t.” Helen leans into the mirror to pick a clot of mascara off her lashes. This mascara is too old. She’ll buy a new tube today, now that she intends to be a regular working woman, someone who, rather than making a thirty-foot commute from bedroom to study and working in her pajamas, actually dresses up and goes out of her house to be among other human beings. She’ll buy some antiaging mascara, surely they’ve come up with that by now. What she really needs is an antiaging mirror. “It’s not cute, what you’re doing,” Tessa says. “It’s not funky or cool or fun. You’ll hate it.” Helen turns to face her. “How do you know? You’re talking about yourself. Just because you didn’t like working there doesn’t mean I won’t.” “Mom. Imagine yourself folding the same sweater one hundred times a day. Imagine saying, ‘Welcome to Anthropologie!’ to hostile customers who only want to be left alone.” “I hardly think they’ll be hostile.” Tessa waves her hand as though flicking away the blackfly of her mother’s ignorance. “You’ve never worked retail. You have no idea how rude people can be. Or how weird.” Helen refrains from answering, Expect the worst, and you’ll get it! She applies a thin coat of coral-colored lipstick. “Too
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From the Publisher

In this stunning novel, beloved bestselling author Elizabeth Berg weaves a beautifully written and richly resonant story of a mother and daughter in emotional transit. Helen Ames-recently widowed, coping with grief, unable to do the work that has always sustained her-is beginning to depend too much on her twenty-seven-year-old daughter, Tessa, meddling in her life and offering unsolicited advice. Then Helen is shocked to discover that her mild-mannered and seemingly loyal husband was apparently leading a double life. When a phone call from a stranger sets Helen on a surprising path of discovery, both mother and daughter reassess what they thought they knew about each other, themselves, and what really makes a home and a family.

From the Jacket

"It's easy to understand why Elizabeth Berg is a beloved, best-selling writer."-Chicago Sun-Times

"Simple, beautiful, and ever so real . . . one of [Elizabeth Berg's] most honest and intimate novels."-Boston Globe

"Home Safe explores, with insight and humor, what it's like to lose everything and to emerge from the other side."-St. Petersburg Times


"[Elizabeth] Berg gracefully renders . . . the notions that every life . . . has its share of awful loss, and that even crushed, defeated hearts can be revived."-Publishers Weekly

"[Berg's] warmth, humor, and forgiving eye for human nature, mixing wry observation with heartwarming moments, make this a pleasant read."-Library Journal

About the Author

Elizabeth Berg is the author of many bestselling novels as well as two works of nonfiction. Open House was an Oprah's Book Club selection, Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year, and Talk Before Sleep was short-listed for an Abby Award. Her bestsellers also include The Year of Pleasures, The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted, and Dream When You're Feeling Blue. Berg has been honored by both the Boston Public Library and the Chicago Public Library and is a popular speaker at various venues around the country. She lives near Chicago.

Editorial Reviews

"It's easy to understand why Elizabeth Berg is a beloved, best-selling writer."-Chicago Sun-Times

"Simple, beautiful, and ever so real . . . one of [Elizabeth Berg's] most honest and intimate novels."-Boston Globe

"Home Safe explores, with insight and humor, what it's like to lose everything and to emerge from the other side."-St. Petersburg Times


"[Elizabeth] Berg gracefully renders . . . the notions that every life . . . has its share of awful loss, and that even crushed, defeated hearts can be revived."-Publishers Weekly

"[Berg's] warmth, humor, and forgiving eye for human nature, mixing wry observation with heartwarming moments, make this a pleasant read."-Library Journal

Bookclub Guide

1. In the opening pages of Home Safe, we see Helen as a young girl, writing poetry to deal with the grief of losing a classmate: "With this, she was given peace" (page 4). What types of activities calm or fulfill you? How do they resonate emotionally?

 2. Helen says that her favorite Christmas gift is the custom- mixed CD her daughter makes for her each year. Do you have a tradition of making homemade gifts? What have been some of your favorite or most memorable holiday gifts? What gift would you be thrilled to get from your child? From your parent? 

3. As a diversion, Helen prepares an elaborate meal of "roast pork with cinnamon apple chutney, mashed sweet potatoes, green beans with crispy shallots," and an apple crisp (page 26). If you were making such a meal just for yourself, what foods would you choose? What roles does food play in our lives? What types of situations and occasions do you associate with special meals? Discuss other creative pursuits that you might have or indeed have tried in a similar situation. 

4. One writing exercise Helen uses as a teaching tool is for her students to write short stories using a number of given objects: "an old silver hairbrush, a blackened frying pan, a love letter from the 1930s, a pair of men''s shoes, a floppy- necked teddy bear, one dusty wing of a butterfly" (page 47). What sort of story might you construct about these objects? Who do these things belong to? If you had created this exercise, what objects might you have chosen? 

5. Helen relates, on page 89, that Dan used a children''s book to illustrate his dream of sailing. Are there any particular children''s books that resonate with you as an adult? That influence you? Why? 

6. The book''s title, Home Safe, appears in an expression Helen recalls on page 95. How did Helen and Dan use this phrase? What people or places in your life give you this feeling? 

7. Helen wonders what she and Dan might have discussed in the tree house, recalling that a friend had wisely said, "It''s not the things you have in a tree house, it''s the things you think about there" (page 129). If you could have a special retreat of your own, what and where would it be, and why? What sorts of things would you discuss there, and with whom? 

8. When Helen considers moving to San Francisco, knowing that Tessa has accepted a job there, she wonders if Tessa will be upset about it and asks herself if she "is allowed to make a decision that is for and about herself?" (page 202). This question of whether an action is for Tessa or for Helen recurs throughout the novel. From where does this question stem? How does this issue affect their relationship? How would you advise each party? Do you know a mother- daughter pair, or a female pair with a different bond, who disagrees on such issues? 

9. Helen thinks that "if you leave one home, you can find another" (page 202). Who or what makes a home? What qualities do you associate with home? Have you found Helen''s thought to be true in your own life? 

10. The details and features of Helen''s dream house are carefully and delightfully described. What might your dream house look like? What features would it include? Where would it be located? 

11. What parts of Helen''s journey are universal? What parts can you relate to your own life? What themes does Elizabeth Berg draw out of the characters? 

12. The lush and detailed images in this novel are unique. Can you point out a few effective images that really conveyed the novel''s themes to you? What images did you most relate and respond to?  

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