The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg

“Someone had to die first.  It turned out to be John.  Nothing more.  Nothing less.  What fell to me now, what I was driving toward, was the creation of a new kind of life, minus the ongoing influence of what I had loved and depended upon most in the world.”

Year_of_pleasures After her husband’s death, Betta sells her brownstone in Boston because she cannot bear to be in a place with so many memories.  The unexpectedly grand selling price removes any money problems, and Betta decides to fulfill one of John’s last requests.  They had planned to move to a small town in the middle of the country when he retired.  He wanted her to drive the back roads until she found the right place and start over, even if he couldn’t be there with her.  Betta winds up in Stewart, a small town about fifty miles from Chicago.  She buys a beautiful Victorian house, just as she and John had planned to do.

John had also wanted Betta to be happy.  “I want you, even in sorrow – especially in sorrow – to find joy.  Will you try?”  A posthumous gift from John is a cigar box full of slips of paper with words like “green bowl,” “carbon,” and “gingerbread.”  None of the words mean anything to Betta, and she wonders if John was a lucid in his last days as she had thought. 

Betta quickly realizes that she and John were so close they didn’t need other people.  She needs them now.  She tries to reconnect with her college housemates and develops friendships with the ten-year-old next door, a college student, her realtor, a local talk show host, and others.  She begins thinking of how she will occupy her time.  And as she tries to “find joy,” some of John’s words begin to make sense.

This quiet, beautifully written book proves that even the death of a beloved spouse and soul mate can be survived, and that joy can be found in everyday experiences.

(Sherrie Antonowicz, Collection Development)

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