Open House
  • Open House
  • Open House

Open House

3.9 120
by Elizabeth Berg

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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

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Touching . . . [A] deft, sweet, and often comic novel."
—Chicago Tribune

—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

—New York Daily News

Open House, Open Heart

Elizabeth Berg has made a name for herself by writing provocative, engaging novels that strike a deep emotional chord with women everywhere. Her topics have ranged from parental estrangement and the death of a dear friend, to the unique bonds that can develop between sisters, or between a straight woman and a gay man. But at the heart of each is a common theme—a woman put to the test, stretched to the limits of her emotional boundaries by the vagaries of life. Berg's latest, Open House, follows this tried-and-true formula by telling the story of one woman's struggle to survive divorce.

Throughout the 20 years of her marriage, Samantha Morrow has been content with her life, though she knows it isn't perfect. She has a nice home, a great son, and a husband she loves. But everything is turned upside down when her husband, David, tells her he wants out of their marriage. His rapid departure on the heels of this announcement leaves Sam horribly shocked, utterly confused, and oddly obsessed with Martha Stewart. Her initial reaction is to go on a spending spree, charging thousands of dollars worth of merchandise at Tiffany's to her husband's credit card. But when reality sets in and her husband cuts her off, she realizes that if she wants to keep the house she loves and make a home for herself and her son, she's going to have to generate some income.

Her first solution to this dilemma is to find a couple of roommates. Between the finished portion of the basement and the extra bedroom upstairs, Sam figures she can take on two boarders and mitigate a large portion of the mortgage payment. She finds her first boarder quickly—the septuagenarian mother of an acquaintance—and is delighted. Lydia Fitch is quiet, clean, concerned, friendly, and more than eager to play grandmother to Sam's son, Travis. Which is just as well, since Sam's own mother doesn't quite fit the bill. In fact, Sam's mother has made a career out of dating since the death of her husband two decades ago and is now determined to fix Sam up as soon as possible—a plan with foreseeable disasters written all over it.

Sam's life is further complicated when she starts looking for a job, for other than a gig singing in a band years ago, she's never been employed. But then King, the gentle giant of a man who helps Lydia move in, puts Sam in touch with the employment agency he works for. Suddenly Sam is off on a variety of short-term jobs, everything from making change at a Laundromat, to working as a carpenter's helper. When she gets the devastating news that Lydia has decided to marry her long-time beau and move out, Sam takes on a second boarder for the basement space: a sullen, depressed college student.

Meanwhile, Sam's relationship with David has given way to an awkward tiptoeing détente as he starts building a new life for himself, replete with an upscale condo and a new girlfriend. Travis starts acting out and behaving as sullenly as the new boarder, and Sam finds herself eating all the time and gaining weight. Throughout it all, the one steady force in Sam's life is King, whose implacable calm and supportive friendship provides a stabilizing rudder in the storm-tossed sea of Sam's life. But Sam soon discovers there is much more to King than she realized and it will force her to rethink everything she has come to hold true.

One of Berg's greatest strengths is her keen eye for the tiny details and intimate thoughts that allow her readers to relate to her characters on a deeply personal level. Watching Sam try to create a home that will nurture her soul by stocking it with the best of household items is funny but heartbreaking. Yet the journey she travels, a journey of self-discovery that shows home really is where the heart is, makes it all worthwhile. Berg's mix of pathos and humor (and in this case, a hilarious dead-on skewering of Martha Stewart) lends her prose a tantalizingly perverse flavor that is both entertaining and oddly satisfying.

Beth Amos

Beth Amos is the author of several mainstream suspense thrillers, including Second Sight, Eyes of Night, and Cold White Fury.. She lives in Wisconsin, and is at work on her next novel.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A middle-aged woman asks herself if there's life after divorce, then answers with a resounding yes in another of Berg's gentle tales of female self-discovery. When Samantha Morrow's husband, David, bails out after almost 20 years of marriage, Sam first goes into denial, then heads for Tiffany's and blows $12,000 on a Limoges tea set, a silver flatware service for 10 and a diamond bracelet--which she gives away to a poor black woman she passes on the drive home. The one-time hippie has not built much of a life for herself outside marriage. As a stay-at-home mother, she cares for her 11-year-old son, Travis, and her relationships are mostly of the love-hate variety: with her ex-husband, her mother, Martha Stewart (who actually calls her on the phone) and herself. Forced to take in lodgers to pay the mortgage on her large suburban house--eventually there are three: 78-year-old Lydia; Edward, a gay hairdresser; and an eccentric girl named Lavender Blue--Sam finds a new friend in King, an MIT graduate-turned-laborer who helps Lydia move in. Though he is overweight, inexperienced and underemployed, King looks surprisingly appealing when compared to the disastrous men Sam's mother sets her up with. As King cooks, babysits and helps Travis with his math homework, gradually he wins Samantha's trust. And when David suggests that he and Samantha get back together, Samantha finally knows who she is, who she has become and what she wants. Berg (Durable Goods) once again refreshes a well-worn plot with knowing domestic detail, an understanding of familiar--sometimes conflicting--female emotions and an infectious sentimental optimism. Neither deep nor complex, Sam charms the reader as she learns to stand up for herself. It is hard not to root for her. 11-city author tour with Laura Catherine Brown. (July) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Samantha (Sam) Morrow doesn't understand why her husband, David, wants a divorce. Suddenly, she finds herself with a mortgage to pay, job skills that extend only to lead singer in a rock band, a preteen son, and overwhelming grief. So she maxes out David's credit cards and calls Martha Stewart for help. Sam listens to advice from her mother and her best friend but doesn't necessarily take it; for the first time in her life, she is thinking for herself. The boarders she decides to take in give her a new viewpoint; she gets a job as a temp and sees the world differently after each assignment. Finally, she meets a man named King, who is completely different from her ex-husband, and she slowly realizes how different men can be. By the time Sam has regained her equilibrium, she is a new person. When David decides he wants to "come home," she does not hesitate to tell him that it is too late. Berg writes with clarity, accurately capturing the aftermath of an adjustment of the heart. Her characters are true to life, with diverse and complex emotional reactions to real-life situations. Recommended for all collections. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 3/1/00.]--Joanna Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Coll. of Continuing Education Lib., Providence Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
The eighth effortless novel from soft-pedaling specialist Berg (Until the Real Thing Comes Along, 1999, etc.) is an emotional slurpee/comedy featuring the newly separated mother of a near-teenaged son who finds the man of her dreams in spite of herself. What's a woman to do after her husband of 20 years packs a bag and walks out? Take a page from Martha Stewart's book, apparently, by getting dressed to the nines, making an elegant breakfast, and then trying to make the kid go along with the charade. Unfortunately for Samantha Morrow, she isn't Martha Stewart, and her son Travis is unflinchingly frank. So Sam goes to Tiffany's and writes a $12,000 check for silver flatware instead, whereupon her husband, David, takes all the money out of their joint account, and she has to start renting out rooms. The first boarder to move in is the mother of her grocery store's cashier, a sweet, capable lady who comes complete with a devoted boyfriend—and the hulk named King who moved her in is a sweetie, too. So what if the woman snores and keeps Travis awake? He and Sam adjust, and everything would be fine if she didn't keep hoping David would come back. But he has the good life and a girlfriend, while she's started temping (on King's recommendation) and dating (at her mother's insistence), the latter with disastrous results. The little old lady marries her boyfriend, another renter proves clinically depressed, and Sam has trouble adjusting to the working life. Even a distress call to Martha Stewart's 800 number doesn't help. Then, when she least expects it, love is in the air. Skillfully crafted, with a fluidity and snap that will delight Berg's fans but, when all is said and done, adistressinglyfamiliar story.

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Oprah's Book Club Series
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.46(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.60(d)

Read an Excerpt


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 a very long elevator shaft). How I believed so hard and for so long that we would be able to overcome everything, and now I would have to admit that we could not. How wrenching it is when the question you want to ask is "Why don't you want me?" but you cannot ask it and yet you do not ask—or talk about—anything else.

"David?" I said again, but this time he did not look up.

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Open House 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 119 reviews.
musiqkid More than 1 year ago
At first it seemed like another book about a woman scorned but, I was pleasantly surprised to watch how she manages to find strength and pull herself out of the mess, and finally realizing who SHE was without her husband. Women really are the strongest of creation.
Annie11SW More than 1 year ago
Great read! For some reason, the story line hit home --- and I was drawn in from beginning to end.
BonnieNH More than 1 year ago
For any woman having a second chance at 'life'...very true painting of a marriage that fails, why it does so, how the children fare, the financial crises involved, old friends and new friends, and last, but not least the soul searching and emotions that are felt. I listened to this book on CD and enjoyed it so much, I listened a second time! I could totally relate. Highly recommended! I will read other books by this author in the future!
VeroniqueTX More than 1 year ago
Love ELizabeth Berg! I've read Home Safe and now Open House and look forward to reading more of hers. When I pick up one of her books, I find it hard to set it down until I've finished it! ENJOY!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Good characters, but I have heard that kind of story before...
ReadingGalNJ More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written, modern characters you can relate you & the winding path of a single Mom. Love all the characters & the true story of how we can all build a family & start over. Terrific Book!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
The best all-time book I have ever read. Every character is great, real-life people I can relate to in my own circle of friends! The insight...outstanding! I laugh and become sad whenever I read this book. I finally bought my own copy and re-read it's the only book I have ever done that with. I would suggest this book to anyone.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Terrible .  Poor writing, poor character and plot development.   Kept hoping it would get better; sadly, it only got worse.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I looked this book. My first Elizabeth Berg and I now have ordered 3 more.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Liked it, but wanted more. Ends too abruptly.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I sort of have mixed emotions about this book. It was definitely entertaining and kept you interested but although the emotions were genuine, the situations and characters came off as contrite. David, the typical jerk of an ex, King, the perfect man who was too perfect to be realistic, Rita, the brassy, brutally honest friend. I liked Sam and identified with her as a chatacter but so many things in this book just didn't ring true for me. I thought the roommates would play more of a central role but they were somewhat incidental to the plot. Read if you're looking for an entertaining, quick read but not if you're looking for something different with complex character studies...
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