A 40th high-school reunion reawakens old insecurities and crushes among former geeks, jocks, wallflowers and beauty queens. In the small Ohio town of Clear Springs, the high-school class of 1960-something is about to relapse into old roles. Three of the alums still live in Clear Springs. Lester, science nerd, is now a veterinarian. Mary Alice, a four-eyed ugly duckling who never married, is caring for her 92-year-old neighbor Einer. Divorcee Dorothy, who hovered on the fringes of popularity, is crash-dieting in hopes of seducing quarterback Pete Decker, who, she hears, is separated from his wife and high-school sweetheart Nora. Blonde lead cheerleader Candy has just been diagnosed with a terminal disease, and she intends to fly to the reunion accompanied by her bulldog in lieu of husband Coop, whose micromanagement she finds exhausting. Pam, the unpopular girl still tasked, thanklessly, with organizing events, has planned the ultimate buzz-kill for the reunion dinner-dance. While trying to dump his mistress and win back Nora, Pete suffers a heart attack. He escapes from the hospital to attend the reunion dressed in ill-fitting golf togs purchased at the airport. Nora flaunts her new boyfriend, while Mary Alice is escorted by Einer, who vows to protect her from classmates who used to haze her. When Dorothy arrives flanked by girlfriends who made up her small clique, she's dismayed to see Pete schmoozing Mary Alice. Einer shares his own high-school memories-then, they called the cool crowd "superlatives." Candy seeks out Lester as her dinner mate, much to Mary Alice's dismay: She had high hopes after lunch with Lester. Candy invites Lester to her hotel room, to examine the suspicious lumpsshe's just discovered on her bulldog's abdomen. More cynical than her usual Anne Tyler-lite approach, Berg's depiction of her characters' mid-life follies and ongoing struggles with the specter of aging is at times hilarious, at times sad, but this time she steers clear of the maudlin to go for the jugular.
A high school reunion and all of its attendant dramas is the backdrop of Berg's rose-tinted latest (after Home Safe). For Dorothy Shauman, her 40th reunion is the chance to finally hook up with her high school crush. She prepares weeks in advance for the big night, strange as that may seem, preening in front of the mirror. As Berg surveys the gamut of emotions felt by Dorothy and some of her classmates, she zeroes in on an array of stereotypes—the hot girls, the jocks, the in crowd, the out crowd—and considers what makes each one tick, offering the vanilla revelation that the person on the inside doesn't always match the person on the outside. It's cleanly plotted, ably written, and sure to appeal to boomers staring down the barrel of their own 40th reunions. (Apr.)
“[Berg] has a knack for taking you right into the soul of her characters, as they respond to joy and tragedy in a perfectly imperfect way.”—Chicago Sun-Times
“A warm, unsentimental look at life way past high school—and the hope some people hold of reliving those glory days.”—People (four stars)
“For the delightful hours it takes to read this novel, it seems that the characters jumped right off the page and joined the crowd for a casual family supper.”—Chicago Tribune
“Marvelous . . . plenty of pathos and can’t-stop-laughing moments . . . Readers will care about every character.”—The Oklahoman
“Book groups are clamoring for upbeat yet significant works that are entertaining as well as enlightening; Berg’s latest novel satisfies and succeeds on both counts.”—Booklist