• Hardcover: 320 pages
• Publisher: Harper Wave (May 3, 2016)
A fifty-year-old Bridge game provides an unexpected way to cross the generational divide between a daughter and her mother. Betsy Lerner takes us on a powerfully personal literary journey, where we learn a little about Bridge and a lot about life.
By turns darkly funny and deeply moving, The Bridge Ladies is the unforgettable story of a hard-won—but never-too-late—bond between mother and daughter.
Buy, read, and discuss this book.
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.
Connect with Betsy.
I always find it odd to be reviewing a memoir, as if I’m passing judgement on the life lived, rather than the book about the life that was lived. If I disagree with a life choice, does that mean I don’t like the book, or don’t like the person? It’s a difficult position.
But The Bridge Ladies was not a difficult memoir to review, partly because it’s brilliantly written, and partly because it really resonated with me. The ladies in their dressy clothes and pearls, pumps and lipstick, playing cards and sharing food reminded me of my Italian grandmother and my great-aunts and cousins gathered around the table playing cards on hot summer nights. They played Canasta, rather than Bridge, but the echoes are there.
But I digress.
Lerner’s story is, at heart, a mother-daughter story. It’s a candid, funny, sometimes dark, often poignant glimpse into the lives of her mother and her mother’s friends, but it’s also a mirror through which Lerner examines herself. As someone who looks in the mirror most days and hears my own mother’s voice urging me to iron that or change my hair or stand up straighter, I completely understand the need for maternal approval that never entirely goes away, even when you try to rebel against it. As someone whose mother’s friends see her as a completely different person than I do, I also understand the way we sometimes have to step outside ourselves to really comprehend events, ideas, people.
That Lerner’s writing style is incredibly readable, almost conversational, helps suck you into The Bridge Ladies, but she also has a great ear for dialog and a great eye for detail. I could see the way those old women dressed, and I could hear their voices in my head almost as well as I could heart the cards being riffled and shuffled and dealt out.
The thing about memoirs is that even when you know, intellectually, that comparison is unhealthy, you can’t help but measure yourself against the person about whom you’re reading. In my case, I recognized that while her story resonates with me, I’m nothing like Betsy Lerner.
At the same time, though, I am – as all women are – a lot like Betsy Lerner: I still grade myself on the scale of Mom, and at nearly 46 years old, I crave and dread her company, simultaneously. This book made me realize that while my own mother is only 66, time goes by too quickly, and even mother-daughter relationships require a little investment.
This book also made me grateful for the relationship my mother and I actually have – the one where we can talk – and LAUGH – about nearly anything. Other women should be so lucky.
This is, I know, a rather odd review. But here’s the thing. Books should touch us. Stories should make us examine ourselves. The Bridge Ladies did both for me, and I’m betting it will do both for other readers as well.
And if it doesn’t, well, maybe it will at least urge some readers to pick up the phone and call their mothers.
Goes well with strong coffee and Stella D’oro anisette toast.
Tuesday, May 3rd: Raven Haired Girl
Wednesday, May 4th: BookNAround
Thursday, May 5th: Books and Bindings
Friday, May 6th: Books on the Table – author interview
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
Monday, May 16th: Queen of All She Reads
Tuesday, May 17th: Puddletown Reviews
Wednesday, May 18th: Bibliotica
Thursday, May 19th: West Metro Mommy
Friday, 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
TBD: Lavish Bookshelf