Open House: A Novel

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Open House: A Novel

by Elizabeth Berg

Random House Publishing Group | May 1, 2001 | Trade Paperback |

3.5 out of 5 rating. 2 Reviews
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In this superb novel by the beloved author of Talk Before Sleep, The Pull of the Moon, and Until the Real Thing Comes Along, a woman re-creates her life after divorce by opening up her house and her heart.
Samantha''s husband has left her, and after a spree of overcharging at Tiffany''s, she settles down to reconstruct a life for herself and her eleven-year-old son. Her eccentric mother tries to help by fixing her up with dates, but a more pressing problem is money. To meet her mortgage payments, Sam decides to take in boarders. The first is an older woman who offers sage advice and sorely needed comfort; the second, a maladjusted student, is not quite so helpful. A new friend, King, an untraditional man, suggests that Samantha get out, get going, get work. But her real work is this: In order to emerge from grief and the past, she has to learn how to make her own happiness. In order to really see people, she has to look within her heart. And in order to know who she is, she has to remember--and reclaim--the person she used to be, long before she became someone else in an effort to save her marriage. Open House is a love story about what can blossom between a man and a woman, and within a woman herself.


From the Hardcover edition.

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 272 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.39 in

Published: May 1, 2001

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345435168

ISBN - 13: 9780345435163

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– More About This Product –

Open House: A Novel

by Elizabeth Berg

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 272 Pages, 5.12 × 7.87 × 0.39 in

Published: May 1, 2001

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0345435168

ISBN - 13: 9780345435163

Read from the Book

PROLOGUE You know before you know, of course. You are bending over the dryer, pulling out the still-warm sheets, and the knowledge walks up your backbone. You stare at the man you love and you are staring at nothing: he is gone before he is gone. The last time I tried to talk to David was a couple of weeks ago. We were in the family room--David in his leather recliner, me stretched out on the sofa. Travis was asleep--he''d had his eleventh birthday party that afternoon, the usual free-for-all, and had fallen into bed exhausted. The television was on, but neither of us was watching it--David was reading the newspaper and I was rehearsing. Finally, "David?" I said. He looked up. I said, "You know, you''re right in saying we have some serious problems. But there are so many reasons to try to work things out." I hoped my voice was pleasant and light. I hoped my hair wasn''t sticking up or that my nose didn''t look too big and that I didn''t look fat when I sat up a bit to adjust the pillow. "I was wondering," I said, "if you would be willing to go to see someone with me, just once. A marriage counselor. I really think--" " Samantha," he said. And I said, "Okay." He returned to the paper, and I returned to lying on the sofa, to falling down an elevator shaft. There were certain things I could not think about but kept thinking about anyway: how to tell the people I''d have to tell. How lonely the nights would be (that was
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From the Publisher

In this superb novel by the beloved author of Talk Before Sleep, The Pull of the Moon, and Until the Real Thing Comes Along, a woman re-creates her life after divorce by opening up her house and her heart.
Samantha''s husband has left her, and after a spree of overcharging at Tiffany''s, she settles down to reconstruct a life for herself and her eleven-year-old son. Her eccentric mother tries to help by fixing her up with dates, but a more pressing problem is money. To meet her mortgage payments, Sam decides to take in boarders. The first is an older woman who offers sage advice and sorely needed comfort; the second, a maladjusted student, is not quite so helpful. A new friend, King, an untraditional man, suggests that Samantha get out, get going, get work. But her real work is this: In order to emerge from grief and the past, she has to learn how to make her own happiness. In order to really see people, she has to look within her heart. And in order to know who she is, she has to remember--and reclaim--the person she used to be, long before she became someone else in an effort to save her marriage. Open House is a love story about what can blossom between a man and a woman, and within a woman herself.


From the Hardcover edition.

From the Jacket

In this superb novel by the beloved author of Talk Before Sleep, The Pull of the Moon, and Until the Real Thing Comes Along, a woman re-creates her life after divorce by opening up her house and her heart.
Samantha''s husband has left her, and after a spree of overcharging at Tiffany''s, she settles down to reconstruct a life for herself and her eleven-year-old son. Her eccentric mother tries to help by fixing her up with dates, but a more pressing problem is money. To meet her mortgage payments, Sam decides to take in boarders. The first is an older woman who offers sage advice and sorely needed comfort; the second, a maladjusted student, is not quite so helpful. A new friend, King, an untraditional man, suggests that Samantha get out, get going, get work. But her real work is this: In order to emerge from grief and the past, she has to learn how to make her own happiness. In order to really see people, she has to look within her heart. And in order to know who she is, she has to remember--and reclaim--the person she used to be, long before she became someone else in an effort to save her marriage. Open House is a love story about what can blossom between a man and a woman, and within a woman herself.

"From the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Elizabeth Berg's novels Open House, The Pull of the Moon, Range of Motion, What We Keep, Never Change, and Until the Real Thing Comes Along were bestsellers. Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year. Talk Before Sleep was an ABBY finalist and a New York Times bestseller. In 1997, Berg won the NEBA Award in fiction, and in 2000 her novel Open House was named an Oprah's Book Club selection. She lives in Chicago.

Author Interviews

A Conversation with Elizabeth Berg Christine Edwards Allred has a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and has worked as a book club director. In addition to the reader’s guide for Open House , she created guides for Leave It To Me , What We Keep , and Until the Real Thing Comes Along . Christine and her husband, Keith, live in Massachusetts. Q: If you "could lift the roof--make for a real open house--and look in-side," what roofs would you lift? What do you think you would see? EB: Given my interest in things "ordinary," I would probably lift the roof of the people on my block. And what I would see are people involved in "ordinary" lives, which, for me, are extraordinary. I’m the kind of person who is entertained watching someone simply be themselves, whether they’re putting their children to bed or making dinner or sit-ting at the table reading the morning newspaper. I like the myriad ways people reveal themselves, the great variation in the human species, as well as the remarkable similarities. Q: Is this what you’re doing when you write--"lifting the roof"? EB: Yes. I look to find the heart and soul of people, of my characters. I look for the truth of them, and the truths about life that are presented through them. Q: Sam wants to "lift the roof" in a moment of isolation. Does writing allow you to ward off isolation? Or, is writing isolating? EB: Well, that’s an interesting question. The answer is both. Writing is, of
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Editorial Reviews

"Touching . . . [A] deft, sweet, and often comic novel."
--Chicago Tribune

"THIS NOVEL MAKES FOR PLEASANT READING . . . PATTY MURPHY IS APPEALINGLY VULNERABLE. . . . NOVELIST ELIZABETH BERG HAS AN ENGAGING VOICE AND STYLE."
--Los Angeles Times

"A PERCEPTIVE COMEDY OF MODERN MANNERS . . . At the end of each undemanding day, Patty goes home to an empty apartment and listens to her biological clock ticking as ominously as Captain Hook''s crocodile. . . . Patty wants a husband and a baby, and not necessarily in that order. . . . But Patty has a problem. Try as she might, there is only one man she can love--her best friend, Ethan--and try as Ethan might, he is quite firmly and intractably gay. With rueful good humor, Until the Real Thing Comes Along shows how Patty and Ethan come to terms with the impossibility of having it all."
--The Boston Globe

"BERG WRITES WITH HUMOR AND UNDERSTANDING ABOUT MATTERS OF THE HEART. . . . The author''s generous view of humanity is evident in her characters, who walk right off the page they are so well and truly drawn."
--St. Louis Post Dispatch

"ENTERTAINING . . . FLAWLESS DIALOGUE . . . READING IT IS LIKE EAVESDROPPING ON AN INTIMATE FEMALE CHAT."
--New York Daily News

"COMPELLING . . . [A] WARMLY TOLD TALE."
--People

Bookclub Guide

1. On the morning that Sam acknowledges that she will be get-ting
a divorce, she begins to act like "the new me" (5). Of
course, the divorce will change Sam, but how does this "new
me" of the first morning differ from the woman she will eventually
become?

2. On this first morning, Sam acts as she imagines Martha Stewart
would. Later, she wants to talk with Martha Stewart although
even Travis assures her that "everybody" hates Martha Stewart
(167). Why? What is Martha Stewart a symbol of? Why is Sam
suddenly so interested in her? Is it actually Martha Stewart who
calls Sam?

3. Sam has rather definite ideas about what Travis''s mother ought
to be like. "His mother," she insists, "should know what she''s
doing" (58). Does Sam know what she''s doing? Is she a good
mother to Travis?

4. Sam''s relationship with her own mother is a difficult one. Her
frustration with Veronica''s "constant, crazy cheerfulness" (88)
is matched only by Veronica''s frustration with Sam''s need to
"revel" in "misery" (49). Still, Sam acknowledges that "at the
heart of things, I am my mother''s daughter" (133). How alike
are Sam and Veronica? In what ways are they different?

5. Open House is marked with moments in which Sam''s family and
friends offer their memories of Sam''s past with David. Rita admits
that she "never" liked David (35). David insists that he
and Sam "just never really connected" (132). Even Sam acknowledges
that she doesn''t think David "ever loved me" (39),
although she stops herself from saying that she "never loved
him" (93). How accurate are these memories-Rita''s, David''s,
Sam''s-of the past? Is hindsight 20/20?

6. In a difficult conversation about their separate lives, Sam wants
to warn David. "Doesn''t he understand," she wonders, "that if
he doesn''t stop this, it will be too late?" (130). In this very moment,
however, Sam mourns that it "is too late" (130). When
does Sam realize that it is "too late" for her to save her marriage?
When did you realize this?

7. During a particularly lonely evening, Sam enters Lydia''s room
in an attempt to "wrap" herself "in the comfort of someone
else''s life" (82). Is this possible? How does it happen?

8. Although Sam longs for a "real open house" (196), her mother,
her son, and her best friend are wary of her decision to "open
[her] house to strangers" (49). Why is the novel titled Open
House? Who are the "strangers" in Sam''s home?

9. Although Sam reads through the personal ads with both Lydia
and Rita, she seems rather skeptical of their promises. Are personal
ads inevitably dishonest? What would an honest personal
ad sound like?

10. As Sam listens to her mother describe the moment in which,
ironing a shirt, she realized just how much she loved Sam''s father,
Sam acknowledges that she appreciates such "evidence
of love." What is this "evidence of love"? Is it absent between
Sam and David? What "evidence of love" exists between Sam
and King?

11. Sam insists that her decision to get divorced is marked both by
moments that are "awful" and moments that are "ecstatic" (53).
Which moments predominate? Do you feel that Sam made the
right decision?

12. After taking Sam to the employment agency, King thanks Sam.
It is a gesture Sam doesn''t understand. What is King thanking
her for? Why doesn''t Sam understand?

13. King explains to Sam that, following a disastrous relationship
in college, he turned away from individuals to science. "Every-thing
is there, in science" (201). However, Sam insists on the
strength and superiority of "human connection" (197). In what
ways does King find "science" all-fulfilling? What does Sam
seek through "human connection"?

14. At one moment in the novel, Sam contemplates the reality
that "you live your life, and you get to ask for things, and some-times
they are given to you" (167). What does Sam ask for?
What is she given?

15. Throughout Open House, Sam experiences moments of wishing
she "believed" and that she "could pray" (198). Sam whispers
"Help me" into "folded hands" (42) and offers a "type of prayer"
over her solitary Thanksgiving dinner (140). In the last sentences
of the novel, she feels "full of faith, blessed by it" (241).
What does Sam have faith in?

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