A fifty-year-old Bridge game provides an unexpected way to cross the generational divide between a daughter and her mother. Betsy Lerner takes us on a powerfully personal literary journey, where we learn a little about Bridge and a lot about life.
After a lifetime defining herself in contrast to her mother’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” generation, Lerner finds herself back in her childhood home, not five miles from the mother she spent decades avoiding. When Roz needs help after surgery, it falls to Betsy to take care of her. She expected a week of tense civility; what she got instead were the Bridge Ladies. Impressed by their loyalty, she saw something her generation lacked. Facebook was great, but it wouldn’t deliver a pot roast.
Tentatively at first, Betsy becomes a regular at her mother’s Monday Bridge club. Through her friendships with the ladies, she is finally able to face years of misunderstandings and family tragedy, the Bridge table becoming the common ground she and Roz never had.
By turns darkly funny and deeply moving, The Bridge Ladies is the unforgettable story of a hard-won—but never-too-late—bond between mother and daughter.
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About the Author
Betsy Lerner is the author of The Forest for the Trees and Food and Loathing. She is a recipient of the Thomas Wolfe Poetry Prize, an Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, and the Tony Godwin Prize for Editors, and was selected as one of PEN’s Emerging Writers. Lerner is a partner with the literary agency Dunow, Carlson & Lerner and resides in New Haven, Connecticut.
Hometown:Pelham, New York
Date of Birth:August 9, 1960
Education:B.A., New York University, 1982; M.F.A., Columbia University, 1987
Table of Contents
1 A Private Language 11
2 The Manhattan Bridge Club 29
3 The Athenian 37
4 A Thousand Bette Cohens 57
5 Bingo 71
6 How I Met Your Father 77
7 What to Expect 105
8 Ruffing It 121
9 Welcome to the Club 131
10 1964 143
11 The Finesse 153
12 The Revelation of Self 161
13 Zig-Zag 177
14 Get the Kiddies off the Street 191
15 The Hands of a Clock 199
16 Jew in a Box 215
17 Bette in Flames 233
18 When the Student Is Ready, the Teacher Appears 249
19 Ash 259
20 The Bridge Ladies 277
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Having always been afraid of bridge myself, I quickly began to relate with the author. But this story of the mother/daughter struggle is told with painfull truthfullness that pulls the reader between laughter and tears. I couldn't stop reading!
I kept waiting for the 'set up' to be completed and the real story to begin. Props to the author for keeping me just interested enough in the next turn of the story. Unfortunately the end simply announced itself with a near silent thud. Perplexed.
Author Betsy Lerner records her time learning to play bridge so she can connect with her mother and her friends. She learns things about the women in her life, and she tries to use this knowledge to understand her relationship with her mother. I read this book for book club. It is not something I would normally pick. There was so much potential for revelations for the author as she learns some of her mother’s history. The hope for some poignant feelings about the ladies was the only reason I kept pushing through to the end. Sadly there was no great confession or a new bond between mother and daughter. None that I could see or felt. Since I was able to finish means the writing still flowed for me but as a story, there was nothing interesting here. I have no interest in the people that are written about and the game bridge sounds even harder than I thought.
4.5 stars Betsy Lerner started out writing a tale about the five Jewish women who made up her mother’s decades-long bridge club group. For three years, she observed their bridge club, interviewed each woman and her children, and set about learning to play bridge to further understand these women. When she began her project, Betsy and her mother had a troubled relationship that had carried over from when she was a teen. As she got to know all of the women better, she also began to view her mother in an altogether new light and set about healing their relationship. She came to understand that while they grew up in a very different time period and seemed a bit old fashioned to her that these women were actually tough, accomplished women who had lived and were continuing to live wonderful lives. The aspects of the group that fascinated Betsy also intrigued me. While the group meet every Monday for over fifty years, there was so much they chose not to share with each other instead just enjoying the company of each other. I loved getting to know each woman’s story and realizing how different it was to come of age in the 1950’s when getting married and having children was the goal for many women. The world has changed so much since they were young and sometimes it is hard to remember that. Parts of the book were very sad as Betsy Lerner addressed the issue of aging and how unpleasant it really is. As I deal with similar issues with my parents, those sections really hit home for me. My favorite part of the book was all of the historical and contemporary references sprinkled throughout from Edith Wharton to The Shining to Fiddler on the Roof to coffee commercials – a few I even had to look up. I also liked that each section of a chapter was separated by spades – a very clever touch for a book about bridge. Since I do not play bridge, I will say that at times the details regarding bridge made those sections drag a bit for me. I highly recommend this book. Thanks to Shelf Awareness and HarperCollins for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
FTC Disclaimer: I received an ARC from the publisher via TLC Book Tours in exchange for a fair and honest review. Opinions expressed are mine. *** "But my biggest concern returning home was the proximity I would now have with my mother. We had never been close and were reliably caught up in a classic mother-daughter dynamic: whatever she said I took the wrong way. Every comment she made felt like a referendum on my life. (page 46, beginning of third paragraph) … Would there ever come a time when I wouldn’t feel judged? Did everything have to come under scrutiny? My homemaking? My work? She wants to know why I work so hard. She doesn’t think I should work so hard. Do I really need to work this hard? she asks in an accusatory tone, as if I’m creating work for myself. The judgements implicit: first and foremost, if I’m working so hard, how could I be spending enough time with my daughter? Equally important: I shouldn’t have to work. In the rubric of my mother’s life, the man is supposed to be the provider." (page 47, first full paragraph) [Quote checked for accuracy with Penny Makras of HarperCollins] My Take Written with charm, humor, and honesty, Betsy Lerner has brought to life the women of the 1950s–albeit our mothers. That is if you are of a certain age. My mother never played bridge but was part of a foursome who lunched, shopped, and walked together. As a daughter caught in a similar maelstrom as Betsy, I often wondered why these three women appeared to be my mother’s best friends and enjoyed it! The secret to The Bridge Ladies and their 50 years of success around the card table lies in their ability not to tell all. A typical characteristic of those returning from World War II and beginning new lives in the 1950s, secrets were kept and were kept close to the heart. Not everything was up for consumption by others’ ears. In spending time not only with her mother but also the other bridge ladies, and even learning to play herself, Betsy Lerner begins to unravel the answers to many questions about her childhood and her relationship with her mother. Keeping secrets is permissible to a limit, but in the long run, as in Betsy’s case, knowing the answers to mysterious happenings as a child would have brought the chance to empathize and extend compassion to her mother. Read the rest at my blog, Puddletown Reviews (http://puddletownreviews.com).
Favorite Quotes: “Yes, my mother has told me about Eugene Genovese a hundred times, the Italian boy she had a huge crush on. It's her West Side Story without the snapping.” “The recipe looks like a panel from the Dead Sea Scrolls: stained many times over with fish grease, darkened with age spots like the back of an older person's hand, annotated with figures for doubling the recipe, and unidentified schmutz... 'Now we take out the eyes,' my mother says with too much gusto. And then without warning she raises a knife, Norman Bates style, and plunges it into the eye of the fish. A wave of nausea moves through me, and I feel like I might faint.” “When it's Travis's turn to discard, he tilts his seat back, legs spread wide, and flicks a card into the center of the table as if he were an outlaw, gun cocked, ready for a shoot-out on a dusty main street. In other words, the guy's a douche, but I find him fascinating.” “The house grew quiet when they played a hand, interrupted by chatter when they'd shuffle the cards and deal a new hand. Sometimes they called it 'washing the cards,' and I couldn't help but think of a soapy sink where the cards were submerged, my mother's hands in pink latex gloves washing each one and affixing it to a clotheline with a pin.” My Review: Being a memoir, The Bridge Ladies is brimming with insightful self-revelations and memories, some of which squeezed my heart while many provoked smirking and barking aloud from the humorous use of metaphor and juxtapositions. The writing was entertaining and plump with lush descriptions that I could almost taste, see, and feel. Each scene was fully set from the floor to the ceiling with rich and juicy word choices. Being the exact same age as the author, I greatly enjoyed her thoughts, observations, and feelings spanning the different stages and periods of her life, and recalled having identical ideas and chaffing at the same constraints and having similar thoughts and reactions to my own parents at the time; which is rather remarkable given the vast disparity in our geographic locals, religious teachings, and social experiences. It was an eye opener and a wonderful read for a rainy spring day.