The Barnes & Noble Review
Elizabeth Berg has penned an unforgettable tale about second chances that tugs hard at the heart strings even as it soothes the soul. Never Change tells the bittersweet story of Myra Lipinsky, a 51-year-old home care nurse and self-acclaimed spinster who finds herself assigned to care for the golden boy she secretly worshipped back in high school. Only Chip Reardon isn’t quite so golden these days -- he’s dying from a highly virulent type of brain tumor.
For Myra, the chance to care for Chip fills her with both pleasure and anxiety, particularly when she realizes that she still has strong feelings for him. At first their reunion is marked by fun, joy, and memories. But then reality kicks in when Chip’s old girlfriend, Diann, shows up, and Myra once again finds herself feeling like the fifth wheel she was back in high school. Yet despite slipping into their old roles, the three quickly discover that they have all changed. For Myra, this leads to a bittersweet irony as she finds herself in a loving relationship for the first time in her life -- only to have it be with a man whose days are drastically numbered.
Berg takes on the controversial issue of assisted suicide and handles it with a delicate but deft touch that somehow manages to speak out for both sides of the argument. This story may address our concerns about death, but the emotional complexity of the characters makes it feel more like a celebration of life. (Beth Amos)
Fifty-one-year-old Myra Lipinski is fairly well adjusted for a loner. While she sees plenty of people as a visiting nurse and lives in the kind of town where everybody jumps in on others' conversations, she's nailed the essence of living solo: She cooks dinner for six and eats for a week, and she indulges in "an astounding array of bath products." Her eclectic collection of patients, including an argumentative married couple and a drug dealer, make up Myra's ragtag family. When her newest patient turns out to be none other than golden boy Chip Reardon, her high school crush, the novel takes its most banal turn: Stricken with brain cancer, Chip has come home to die, and Myra is his designated nurse. Though lucidly drawn, Berg's characters tend to fall flat, and the final outcome is annoyingly predictable. In this Oprah Book Club wannabe (Berg already has one under her belt with 2000's Open House), everyone learns a lesson, even, in the book's most ridiculous moment, a mugger cowed by the power of terminal illness.
Berg seems to have bounced back. Her previous novel, Until the Real Thing Comes Along (LJ 5/15/99), was a fun read, but there was no substance beneath the diversion. With Never Change, Berg gets closer to the power and depth of her early novel Talk Before Sleep (LJ 3/15/94). Fifty-one-year-old Myra Lipinsky is the classic "old maid": she has always considered herself unattractive and wallows in self-pity over her lack of a husband or children. Myra's job as a home-care nurse, which she loves, brings her into contact with many different people and gives her a sense of strength and importance. When Myra's high school crush Chip Reardon is assigned as her new patient, she longs for him as she did years ago. Chip is dying from a brain tumor and has chosen not to seek further treatment, letting nature take its course. Chip and Myra become lovers at a crucial time in both of their lives the end, for him, and a new beginning for her. Recommended for public libraries. Beth Gibbs, Davidson, NC Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Another bedside drama from prolific bestseller Berg (Open House, 2000, etc.), again featuring her preferred plotline of a woman in emotional distress finding herself against all odds. At 51, visiting nurse Myra Lipinsky has been lonely for as far back as she can remember. "I come into the evening like I'm coming onto a stretch of bad road. Tighten my hands on the wheel. Sit up straight. Wait for it to be over." A kindhearted softy, Myra takes a personal interest in all her patients. Among this colorful if standard lot are Rose Banovitz, a forgetful old woman who wears her slip on the outside; Fitz Walters, a blind patron of strip clubs; Grace, a teenaged mother terrified of mishandling her newborn; and DeWitt Washington, a black drug dealer with a gunshot wound who's nonetheless so charming that anyone would want him for a neighbor and friend. Into this picture come Chip Reardon, the high-school football hero Myra adored from afar, and Diann Briedenbach, his equally popular girlfriend, who used to call upon Myra for consolation when she was feeling insecure. Chip has come home to die from a brain tumor, and Myra has been assigned to his case. He's happy to see her; she's delirious with joy to be near him, despite 30 years and the tumor. She even invites Diann to stay at her house, re-creating their ménage à trois. But this time, with Diann's blessing, Myra wins Chip: only she is able to bear his degeneration. In fact, she is so much in love that when Chip makes the decision to end his life, Myra not only agrees to stay with him but secretly plans to commit suicide as well, although she ultimately grants herself a reprieve. Berg wastes her considerable writing talent ona contrived, familiar story, and a likable but implausible protagonist. Still, who can argue with success? Author tour; radio satellite tour
USA Today A touching novel.
Atlantic Monthly Vital connections are Berg's primary concern. Readers of her earlier novels will hear echoes in the broad themes of Never Change...This book is about the wisdom and closeness that crisis can bring. The narrative road that leads to them is funny, poetic, and moving.
The Midwest Book Review A five-tissue-box novel...Elizabeth Berg has written one of the most dramatic and beautiful books of her career, one that celebrates life to the fullest.