Thursday, May 19, 2016

Book Review: "The Bridge Ladies" by Betsy Lerner

The Bridge Ladies Betsy Lerner
Published: May 3, 2016
ISBN: 9780062354464
Genre: Memoir
Source: TLC Book Tours
Highly Recommended

You might enjoy this book if you like: Mother/daughter stories, generat,ional stories, mid-century America, Jewish literature, the game of Bridge (or are at least familiar with Bridge)

After a lifetime of defining herself against her mother’s Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell generation, Betsy Lerner, a poster child for the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ’n’ Roll generation, finds herself back in her childhood home of New Haven, Connecticut, not five miles from the mother she spent a lifetime avoiding. When Roz needs help after surgery, it falls to Betsy to take care of her. She expected a week of tense civility; what she got instead were the Bridge Ladies. Impressed with their loyalty, she realized her generation was lacking. Facebook was great, but it wouldn’t deliver a pot roast.

Tentatively at first, Betsy becomes a regular fixture at her mother’s Monday Bridge Club. Before long, she braves the intimidating world of Bridge and comes under its spell. But it is through her friendships with the ladies that she is finally able face years of misunderstandings and family tragedy. The Bridge Ladies become a Greek chorus, a catalyst for change between mother and daughter. 

By turns darkly funny and deeply moving, The Bridge Ladies brilliantly weaves the stories of the Bridge Ladies, along with those of Betsy and her mother across a lifetime of missed opportunities. The result is an unforgettable and profound journey into a hard-won—but never-too-late—bond between mother and daughter. 

My Thoughts:
I'll be the first to admit that my personal experiences greatly impacted my experience with this book.  It only took reading the forward for me to realize that this was going to be one of those books that was almost just as much about me as it was about the book itself.

Growing up, my mother played bridge regularly.  In my mind, she played every week, although I'm sure it was probably a monthly thing.  She had her own set of "Bridge Ladies" and they played together for almost 30 years.  When Lerner talks about how, as a child, she tried to figure out how to stealthily steal the candies from the Bridge table--something I remember doing on many occasions!  Because of this, I had a deep connection for this book from the get-go.  There was something concrete here I could latch onto and, in many ways, I felt like Lerner was telling me my own story.

I loved seeing how the story of each Bridge Lady developed as Lerner got to know them better.  I think, as a child, it is easy to believe that adults are always adults and we don't realize that these women have their own stories.  And I found the relationships between the Bridge Ladies to be unexpected.  They aren't best friends, in fact there is sometimes some conflict between them, but they still use this one thing--Bridge--as a way to stay connected.

Lerner also talks about how she, inspired by these women, decides to learn how to play bridge.  It is not easy going, and I totally get that.  I once took 10 weeks of bridge lessons and then, on my first hand "on the floor", made a common beginners mistake and was yelled at...and that was the last time I played Bridge.  Trust me, Bridge is not for the faint of heart.  Still, as I read about Lerner's trails trying to learn the game, I started to think that maybe I should give it another try?

At the heart of this book is a mother-daughter story, and one of the more touching ones I've read in a work of non-fiction.  Lerner's relationship with her mother has not always been strong and, even as an adult, she is still trying to work through it.  Yet, Bridge becomes a language where she can connect with her mother like never before.  I was so touched by this that I sent my copy of the book to my own mother for Mother's Day.

I would recommend this book to, well, just about anyone...but especially to all of you who remember trying to figure out how to dive-bomb the chocolate dish at your mothers' Bridge games!

About the Author:
Betsy Lerner is the author of The Forest for the Trees and Food and Loathing. She is a recipient of the Thomas Wolfe Poetry Prize, an Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, and the Tony Godwin Prize for Editors, and was selected as one of PEN’s Emerging Writers. Lerner is a partner with the literary agency Dunow, Carlson & Lerner and resides in New Haven, Connecticut.

Find out more about Betsy at her website, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.

Betsy Lerner recently posted this on her Facebook page, and I felt it appropriate to share here.  Enjoy!

I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review.  I received no other compensation for this post.

Would you like to read more about this title?  Check out some of the other stops on the blog tour!  (Links go to the blogs, not the specific reviews):

Tuesday, May 3rd: Raven Haired Girl
Wednesday, May 4th: BookNAround
Thursday, May 5th: Books and Bindings
Friday, May 6th: Books on the Table
Monday, May 9th: I’d Rather Be At The Beach
Tuesday, May 10th: Patricia’s Wisdom
Wednesday, May 11th: A Lovely Bookshelf on the Wall
Thursday, May 12th: Lavish Bookshelf
Monday, May 16th: Queen of All She Reads
Tuesday, May 17th: Puddletown Reviews
Wednesday, May 18th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, May 20th: Olduvai Reads
Monday, May 23rd: Worth Getting in Bed For
Tuesday, May 24th: I’m Shelf-ish
Wednesday, May 25th: Good Girl Gone Redneck
Thursday, May 26th: The many thoughts of a reader
Friday, May 27th: Life By Kristen

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