Open House: A Novel [NOOK Book]


BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Elizabeth Berg's Once Upon a Time, There Was You.

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 ...
See more details below
Open House: A Novel

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$11.99 price


BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Elizabeth Berg's Once Upon a Time, There Was You.

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.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
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.
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375505874
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/19/2000
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 68,007
  • File size: 3 MB

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Berg
Elizabeth Berg's novels Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year. Talk Before Sleep was an ABBY finalist, a New York Times bestseller, and a national bestseller. The Pull of the Moon, Range of Motion, What We Keep, and Until the Real Thing Comes Along also were national bestellers. In 1997, Berg won the NEBA Award in fiction. She lives in Massachusetts.
Read More Show Less
    1. Hometown:
      Chicago, Illinois
    1. Date of Birth:
      December 2, 1948
    2. Place of Birth:
      St. Paul, Minnesota
    1. Education:
      Attended the University of Minnesota; St. Mary’s College, A.A.S.

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.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

1. On the morning that Sam acknowledges that she will be get-ting
a divorce, she begins to act like "the new me" (5). Of
course, the divorce will change Sam, but how does this "new
me" of the first morning differ from the woman she will eventually

2. On this first morning, Sam acts as she imagines Martha Stewart
would. Later, she wants to talk with Martha Stewart although
even Travis assures her that "everybody" hates Martha Stewart
(167). Why? What is Martha Stewart a symbol of? Why is Sam
suddenly so interested in her? Is it actually Martha Stewart who
calls Sam?

3. Sam has rather definite ideas about what Travis's mother ought
to be like. "His mother, " she insists, "should know what she's
doing" (58). Does Sam know what she's doing? Is she a good
mother to Travis?

4. Sam's relationship with her own mother is a difficult one. Her
frustration with Veronica's "constant, crazy cheerfulness" (88)
is matched only by Veronica's frustration with Sam's need to
"revel" in "misery" (49). Still, Sam acknowledges that "at the
heart of things, I am my mother's daughter" (133). How alike
are Sam and Veronica? In what ways are they different?

5. Open House is marked with moments in which Sam's family and
friends offer their memories of Sam's past with David. Rita admits
that she "never" liked David (35). David insists that he
and Sam "just never really connected" (132). Even Sam acknowledges
that she doesn't think David "ever loved me" (39),
although she stops herself from sayingthat she "never loved
him" (93). How accurate are these memories-Rita's, David's,
Sam's-of the past? Is hindsight 20/20?

6. In a difficult conversation about their separate lives, Sam wants
to warn David. "Doesn't he understand, " she wonders, "that if
he doesn't stop this, it will be too late?" (130). In this very moment,
however, Sam mourns that it "is too late" (130). When
does Sam realize that it is "too late" for her to save her marriage?
When did you realize this?

7. During a particularly lonely evening, Sam enters Lydia's room
in an attempt to "wrap" herself "in the comfort of someone
else's life" (82). Is this possible? How does it happen?

8. Although Sam longs for a "real open house" (196), her mother,
her son, and her best friend are wary of her decision to "open
[her] house to strangers" (49). Why is the novel titled Open
House? Who are the "strangers" in Sam's home?

9. Although Sam reads through the personal ads with both Lydia
and Rita, she seems rather skeptical of their promises. Are personal
ads inevitably dishonest? What would an honest personal
ad sound like?

10. As Sam listens to her mother describe the moment in which,
ironing a shirt, she realized just how much she loved Sam's father,
Sam acknowledges that she appreciates such "evidence
of love." What is this "evidence of love"? Is it absent between
Sam and David? What "evidence of love" exists between Sam
and King?

11. Sam insists that her decision to get divorced is marked both by
moments that are "awful" and moments that are "ecstatic" (53).
Which moments predominate? Do you feel that Sam made the
right decision?

12. After taking Sam to the employment agency, King thanks Sam.
It is a gesture Sam doesn't understand. What is King thanking
her for? Why doesn't Sam understand?

13. King explains to Sam that, following a disastrous relationship
in college, he turned away from individuals to science. "Every-thing
is there, in science" (201). However, Sam insists on the
strength and superiority of "human connection" (197). In what
ways does King find "science" all-fulfilling? What does Sam
seek through "human connection"?

14. At one moment in the novel, Sam contemplates the reality
that "you live your life, and you get to ask for things, and some-times
they are given to you" (167). What does Sam ask for?
What is she given?

15. Throughout Open House, Sam experiences moments of wishing
she "believed" and that she "could pray" (198). Sam whispers
"Help me" into "folded hands" (42) and offers a "type of prayer"
over her solitary Thanksgiving dinner (140). In the last sentences
of the novel, she feels "full of faith, blessed by it" (241).
What does Sam have faith in?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 120 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 120 Customer Reviews
  • Posted October 2, 2011

    Wasn't sure at first, but then I couldn't put it down

    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.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 16, 2011

    Couldn't Put This One Down!

    Great read! For some reason, the story line hit home --- and I was drawn in from beginning to end.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted September 11, 2010


    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!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 23, 2009

    So Easy To Relate To!

    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!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 8, 2000

    Waste of Time

    I bought this book only because it was on the Oprah list and most of her suggestions are good. But this book was boring and I didn't feel anything for any of the characters. Shallow writing and the author repeated lines too often and you just didn't 'care' about any of the characters. Stupid little novel!

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2013

    Terrible .  Poor writing, poor character and plot development.  

    Terrible .  Poor writing, poor character and plot development.   Kept hoping it would get better; sadly, it only got worse.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Enjoyable read

    This is a great book when one is just in the mood for a good read. It examines present day issues, is so hilarious at times that I laughed out loud, and is serious and sweet. I enjoyed this one and will likely read it again someday. a real "chick" story!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2009

    Open House

    Good characters, but I have heard that kind of story before...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted June 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fell in Love with Characters

    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!!!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2007

    The best book ever!

    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.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2007

    Waste of my time

    This finally made me decide not to read Elizabth Berg anymore, or at least not for quite some time. Her books are either amazing or a waste of time. Unfortunately this one was a waste of time for me. I never once cared anything about this character or anything that she did. I felt she didn't even really care that her marriage fell apart and just kind of cruised along. I listened to the audio of this and it could have been the narrator's interpretation but still....complete waste of my time.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 24, 2012


    Hello :)

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 30, 2012

    Highly recommended

    I looked this book. My first Elizabeth Berg and I now have ordered 3 more.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 19, 2012

    Quick read

    Liked it, but wanted more. Ends too abruptly.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 3, 2011

    Liked it, didn't love it

    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...

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 22, 2009

    Really sweet

    Never been there but seems to capture the feeling experience of divorce and starting a new life. The love story aspect of the book was truly charming and made me smile and wish for the same. Beautifully written book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted July 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    This book is for all women to read. It's sad and uplifting!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 12, 2005

    Great Book

    I absolutely LOVED this book. It made me laugh and it also made me cry. Elizabeth Berg is a whiz when it comes to writing. I recommend all of her books, she is truly a genius at writing.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 14, 2005

    Best read in ages!!!

    Berg's characters are human - funny, bewildered, getting by - and true to life. For the first time in ages I've read a book good enough to recommend. I laughed out loud, teared up, and flushed with remebered shame. Not your everyday divorce story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 16, 2004

    It's a keeper

    Great book. I read it around the same time I went through my divorce and scoffed at myself for just throwing my ex's clothes outside when Sam has the ingenuity to sew her dearly departed's socks and underwear flaps shut. You just have to admire a woman who does that. Sam is a gal you would love to have for a best friend. She has spirit, charactor and personality in spades. She takes what begins as an excruciatingly painful change in her life and learns to live better for it. She brings interesting new people into her life and embraces loyal old friends again and gives you a lot of laughs in the process.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 120 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)