Durable Goods

Durable Goods

by Elizabeth Berg


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On the hot Texas army base she calls home, Katie spends the lazy days of her summer waiting: waiting to grow up; waiting for Dickie Mack to fall in love with her; waiting for her breasts to blossom; waiting for the beatings to stop. Since their mother died, Katie and her older sister, Diane, have struggled to understand their increasingly distant, often violent father. While Diane escapes into the arms of her boyfriend, Katie hides in her room or escapes to her best friend’s house—until Katie’s admiration for her strong-willed sister leads her on an adventure that transforms her life.

Written with an unerring ability to capture the sadness of growth, the pain of change, the nearly visible vibrations that connect people, this beautiful novel by the bestselling author of Open House reminds us how wonderful—and wounding—a deeper understanding of life can be.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812968149
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/13/2003
Series: Katie Nash Series , #1
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 480,781
Product dimensions: 5.16(w) x 7.93(h) x 0.45(d)

About the Author

ELIZABETH BERG is the author of twelve novels, including her newest work, The Art of Mending, the New York Times bestsellers Say When, True to Form, Never Change, and Open House, which was an Oprah’s Book Club Selection in 2000. Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year, and Talk Before Sleep was short-listed for the ABBY award in 1996. The winner of the 1997 New England Booksellers Award for her body of work, she is also the author of a nonfiction work, Escaping into the Open: The Art of Writing True. She lives in Chicago.


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.

Read an Excerpt

Well, I have broken the toilet. I flushed, the water rose, then rose higher, too much. I stared at it, told it, “No!” slammed the lid down, then raised it back up again. Water still rising. Water still rising. I put the lid down, turned out the light, tiptoed out of the bathroom, across the hall, and into my bedroom, where I slid under my bed.

Excerpted from "Durable Goods"
by .
Copyright © 2003 Elizabeth Berg.
Excerpted by permission of Random House Publishing Group.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

What People are Saying About This

Andre Duves

Elizabeth Berg writes with humor and a big heart about resilience, lonliness, love, and hope. And the transcendent that redeems.

Reading Group Guide

1. Durable Goods is a first-person narrative. What effect does this technique have on the telling of the story for you? Who is the novel’s narrator, and what are some characteristics of her narrative voice? How does Berg’s writing capture or evoke the character of adolescence?

2. Throughout the story, Katie sometimes calls her father “Dad,” but most often refers to him as “he” or “him.” It is clear that Katie and her sister are talking about their father, even though they never mention his name. Likewise, their mother also remains nameless throughout the novel. What does this tell you about Katie’s relationship with her father and the evolution of her relationship with her mother?

3. Katie’s father is a conflicted character. Though he is abusive and neglectful, he is not completely villainized. Discuss Berg’s characterizations of Mr. Nash, as a man and as a father. How did you feel about him at the end of the book? Were you ever sympathetic toward him, as Katie becomes at the end of the novel, when she recalls him standing out in the rain without an umbrella?

4. Katie is an astute and insightful observer of people and situations. At one point she comments, “Sometimes, it seems to me that the only thing in the world is people just trying.” How did you interpret this statement? How is this sentiment reflected in and woven throughout the novel?

5. There are several themes laced through the novel, such as the ways people cope with loss and grief and the different kinds of relationships between women. What are some of the underlying themes in this book, and how does Berg capture or express them? What literary techniques does she employ to convey the themes of the novel?

6. Discuss the title Durable Goods. Where is this phrase mentioned in the story, and what meaning does it hold for Katie? For her father? What meaning does it have for you?

7. The novel is shaded by a deep sense of spirituality. Katie speaks often of her relationship with God, andwe see how that relationship is affected by the loss of her mother. How does Katie reflect on religion? How does this help her cope with a sense of grief?

8. Grief and loss are ongoing themes in the book, on several levels. What sort of losses do the Nash girls suffer throughout the book? How do they cope with them? How does their father cope with his grief? Give a few examples by which it becomes clear that communicating pain is considered taboo in the Nash household. What impact does this limitation have on the relationships within the Nash family?

9. Describe Katie’s friend Cherylanne and her family (Belle and Bubba). How does the apparent disparity between the two girls and their families help to shed light on Katie’s character and situation?

10. Berg’s writing has been described as both “quiet” and “delicate.” With respect to Durable Goods, how would you interpret these descriptions? Do you think they are accurate? How would you describe Berg’s style in this novel?

11. Durable Goods is imbued with a sense of immediacy. How does Berg make the reader feel present in that particular time and place with Katie Nash? Select some passages that were particularly telling or successful in creating a sense of setting. Did Berg’s technique in creating a literary atmosphere enable you to feel more connected to her characters?

12. While Katie’s situation is unique, she is truly a universal character. Did you find yourself able to identify with her? If so, how, and at what points in the story did you feel most connected? Did you identify with any of the other characters? How?

13. The end of the novel is infused with both hope and sadness. Did the end of the book leave you wanting more or wondering what would happen to Katie, Diane, and their father? How did you feel about Katie’s decision to return home? What do you predict will happen to the family at this point in their story?

Customer Reviews

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Durable Goods 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 30 reviews.
jaysueread More than 1 year ago
If you are over 60 you will remember many things they talk about in this wonderful book. This is the first book in 3 part series.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Its a amazing original book and great to show how there can always be a lot of up and downs in life
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I read this book when I was in high school, I wouldn't say that I enjoyed it (the story hits close to home for me), but looking back now on the story I think that my sister is old enough to read and understand it now. Its a Graduation present that I know will leave an impression on her.
Darla on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not sure why I had this book in my TBR pile--it must have been a recommendation, but I'm not sure from whom, or why I took the recommendation.Maybe they recommended it because the main character is a 12-year-old army brat. I've got one of those in my house, actually, though he's not a girl. And this isn't the 60s (50s?).But that's also why I got turned off by the book very early on. Have I ranted here yet about every single military father in fiction being an abusive asshole? Don't worry--I won't. It doesn't even surprise me anymore. I just chalk it up to ignorance and a desire to keep that us vs. them separation alive so that perpetual war is okay. (So I lied--it's just a mini-rant, after all.) Oh, and I tend to not want to read the author's books anymore.Twelve-year-old Katie and her teenage sister Diane live with their abusive army officer father after the death of their mother. Katie mostly hangs out with her 14-year-old friend Cherylanne. There's lots about how Katie and Cherylanne spend their time, and how Katie tries to avoid her father's abuse.Then he announces they have to move, and Diane and Katie can't take it anymore.It's more of a snapshot of a short period in a girl's life than it is a story. Some of the reviews call it a coming-of-age story, but I think that's just because Katie is 12. She doesn't really grow up or change much. It's not a character study, either, because there's not much depth to the characters. The girls are pretty bland--we see them behaving like ordinary adolescents, and there's nothing particularly memorable or illuminating about any of it. The father, too, wasn't very believable, and not just because of the caricature of a military dad. For example, some of his reactions are completely at odds with his established abuse. There's not even an attempt to explain it.It is a very atmospheric and clear snapshot, but that's not enough to carry a book. I'm not tempted to check out the sequels.
lorabear on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Why I chose it...Enjoy the writings of Elizabeth Berg What I thought: This book was different than most of the others of hers that I have read. Very easy read, and enjoyable.
carmarie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book. I read it in one sitting. The voice of Katie is so real. This is the first time that I almost felt for the abuser (her father). You can tell he's in there somewhere trying to feel for his daughters, but just doens't know how. You feel all of the characters.
skippersan on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For a book almost entirely about sex, this one is squeaky-clean. That brands it as a marketing-inspired product of the monolithic young-reader publishing machine. Berg writes in a warm and comforting voice, assuring the girl reader that everything she is feeling is normal, and reaffirming the normalcy of a very limited number of traditional rites of passage. Feelings are normal. Primping is normal. Kissing is normal. Hating and loving your father is normal. Drinking is normal. But cigarettes, sex, and drugs are not. To me, it seemed like the only thing in the book that was not ultimately related to sex was abuse, of which there was much. So, yes, it¿s also normal to shut down emotionally when your dad beats your big sister for her innocuous displays of independence. Although I admit it may be a good thing to offer that sort of emotional support, I expect more from a book addressed to girls at this crucial time in their lives. The author, in her effort to create a character her audience could instantly identify with, has failed to offer anything for her audience to aspire to. There is nothing in Katie¿s life to give it any purpose beyond her girl friends and her desire for a boyfriend. Thus, she sets about disappearing¿one way or another. She disappears from the family violence by hiding under the bed or by entering a fantasy world. She disappears from herself by bowing to fashion as understood by her friends. And throughout, the author¿s reassuring voice tells the reader that this is normal, so don¿t be ashamed of it or try to fight it. There are no hobbies in Berg¿s world. There are no interests, no passions, no greater world out there, and no inspired vision of a future self. No one reads, plays sports, or takes music lessons. Everyone just hangs out at the pool when outside and plays spin-the-bottle when inside. As much loved as this novel is, it seems to me to be part of the problem, not part of the solution.
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Tl44 More than 1 year ago
When I first picked up Durable Goods, I was wary of the young narrator, but found myself pleasantly surprised. Katie pulls you into the story with wit and charm. You feel her heartache and share in her joy. It's another excellent book from Elizabeth Berg!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is one of the best I have ever read, and I say that about every book, but with this one, I really mean it. I'd hate to admit this, but when I began the book, I did not intend on getting much out of it. Much less expecting much of anything from it. Then I started reading, and I could not stop. This book is amazing. Told through 12-year-old Katie's eyes, a story about her and her life. Her father is abusive. Her mother is dead. And her 18-year old sister, Diane, only wants to get away with her boyfriend. This book is a sad look at reality, but a great book to read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Over the summer I read Durable Goods and it was the best summer reading book I ever read. All I know is that I really enjoyed reading it. I wish they made a part 2 about Durable Goods!!!!!!!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I havent read this one yet but i might for my highschool summer reading! It looks good and i dont know what to read either this one or Joy Shool. Someone tell me what to read!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was alright to read. This is my first Berg book and I am not sure if I would pick up another. I did enjoy the speed of the book, how it kept moving. But there were some slow spots that you had to skim over in order to keep wanting to read. The book did have a good story line, it just was very easily assumed what the girls were going to do next. All in all, it was an ok read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I didn't enjoy this one at all. It just seemed that 'nothing' happened. I almost felt like I was reading an 'abridged' version of the real story with many things left out. Certainly not one of Ms. Berg's best.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have recommended this book and Joy School to several people already. I read it in 2 evenings (and I have 4 small children!). I loved all the characters...even the flawed father. You feel like if you could just get a chance you might understand him better. Very good indeed. I have gone on to read 4 more of Elizabeth Berg's books and she is very interesting. I like what she brings...being a Registered Nurse, 'Army Brat', she is very neat.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am embarrased to say this is my first 'Berg' book. I am not sure what rock I have been living under but I have to say I am a new fan. Most of the reviews for her books are great and I only have good things to say about this. The story took me back to growing up and how tough it can be. From your first kiss to fighting with you best friend. I can't imagine a person who can't relate to these issues. Some of the story is unsettling but doesn't dwell on unhappiness. Just as you feel sorry for the life these kids have to deal with something nice or funny happens. I don't want to downplay the problems in the story but the story isn't completly depressing like some novels are. I have now bought 3 more Berg books and am thrilled to start them!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was a really good book. I enjoyed it. I had to read it for school and couldn't put it down.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Usually, when I am towards the end of a book, I count the last few pages constantly to see when it will finally be over. But not with Durable Goods by Elizabeth Berg. This was one of the best books I have ever read, and is my second favorite, only beaten by the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.
Guest More than 1 year ago
All of Elizabeth Berg's books are wonderful, but the three books about Katie Nash (Durable Goods, Joy School, and True to Form) are my favorites. If you read the other reviews, you may think that they're designed for young readers. They're not; they're designed for readers who were young at some point. There's so much to identify with in Katie, and while they're definitely easy reads, they're beautifully, insightfully, and intelligently written. Elizabeth Berg is able to make the reader both laugh and cry. Her writing is so natural it makes it seem easy. These books are both poignant and hilarious, which isn't easy to pull off.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Although this book is fairly short, it was gripping. I sometimes have a hard time feeling a book, but this one digs deep, because we were all Katie's age once. You really start to understand and sympathize with each of the characters and then it brings out two of the most powerful human emotions, love and hatred, and you feel them simultaneously. One of the best books I've read all year.