Open House: A Novel

Open House: A Novel

3.9 120
by Elizabeth Berg

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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


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.

Editorial Reviews
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.

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Random House Publishing Group
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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.

Meet the Author

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.

Brief Biography

Chicago, Illinois
Date of Birth:
December 2, 1948
Place of Birth:
St. Paul, Minnesota
Attended the University of Minnesota; St. Mary¿s College, A.A.S.

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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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