Once Upon A Time There Was You by Elizabeth Berg

On her wedding day, Irene Marsh sits in the bride’s room asking her best friend Valerie to go and get the car and help her escape. And if Valerie doesn’t want to help, Irene understands; she says can take a bus home.
On the night before his wedding, John Marsh sits in a bar with his best friend who asks a nervous John to recall why he’s marrying Irene, in an effort to calm him down.  John says: “Because she doesn’t wear make-up?”
This marriage ends in divorce.  No surprise there, not even to Irene and John.  In fact they would both agree the only good thing that happened during their marriage was their daughter Sadie.

Now at age 18, Sadie is living with her mother and feels smothered by Irene’s over bearing need to control everything that involves Sadie, and John while still playing the role of the good father, lives back in Minnesota and seems distant and unavailable when Sadie needs him. 

When tragedy strikes, hitting the core of what Irene and John held dearest, the once couple is brought back together to support one another while they try to support their daughter as well.

Irene and Sadie live in a three-flat. A three-flat is a three-story walk up apartment building in which each dwelling unit occupies one story and all share a common main entrance.


As I continue my way through the works of Elizabeth Berg I found myself with her newest release, Once Upon A Time There was You.   I felt almost from the beginning that this book was going to be predictable.  A few pages in, I felt as though I knew how it would all end and with a resigned sigh, I proceeded deeper into the book.

It made me, and hopefully you as well, happy to know I was wrong.

Irene was not a strong woman.  She was self-conscious about her body, her age, and the fact that her daughter soon would go off to college and she would be alone.  Irene dated yes, but never really connected with anyone.  Even her best friend Valerie said that Irene was restless… never satisfied with just staying put. 

“It’s like you’re all the time digging in the tomato bin, saying, ‘Where are the apples?'”

~ Valerie to Irene page 276

And John was actually the more likable of the once couple.  He was calm, patient, and thought before he spoke, unlike Irene who’s every emotion ran right out her mouth.

Really though, this book centers around Sadie and Sadie’s “happening” is the plot of this book, and I have to say, a weak plot at that.  What happened to Sadie could have been quite a powerful story line.  In fact when it was happening I was thinking whoa…. this is going to really be explosive of how the book moves forward.

But…

it wasn’t.

And so the book moves on from this point and I along with it, wondering what big thing would happen…. but alas, did not.

As I turned the last page (actually I really did turn the last page because I did not realize it was the last page…) I do not know if I had a full sense of closure.  Yes, most of the story was brought full circle, but in the end… it felt…. incomplete to me.

An enjoyable light read.  Nothing more.

Amazon Rating

Good reads Review

The 2011 WHERE Are You reading Map has been updated to include this book

I borrowed this book from my local library

About Sheila (Book Journey)

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Posted on July 12, 2011, in Book Review and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I’m sorry you didn’t enjoy this one more, Sheila. I didn’t think it was one of her better books, but I always love a Berg tale.

    Thanks for sharing….

  2. Not an author I’m familiar with, I’m hearing lots of good things on various blogs, thanks for sharing your opinion with us.

  3. Hmmm. Closure. I always feel like if I ever write a book, it will have one of those open ended endings because isn’t that how life is? We never really have the answers. But then, there are some stories that need a little more. Maybe not closure, but something to indicate that all of this happened for a reason. It sounds like this one didn’t really provide either for you. But still, I am intrigued by the story line and I have found myself enjoying Berg’s writing. I’ll keep this one in mind as a light summer read.

    • It is a good summer read Jennifer, I too enjoy Berg and will continue to read her. 😀

      Sometimes I like books that leave a bit to the imagination at the end, that happened with Forever and there it worked…. for some reason, this one left me feeling like it just ended. Period.

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