A fifty-year-old bridge game, and the secrets it held, provides an unexpected way to cross the generational divide between the author and her mother: Betsy Lerner takes us on an intimate and powerfully personal literary journey where we learn a little about bridge and a lot about life.
After a lifetime of defining herself against her mother’s Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell generation, Betsy Lerner, a poster child for the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ’n’ Roll generation, finds herself back in her childhood home of New Haven, Connecticut, not five miles from the mother she spent a lifetime 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 with their loyalty, she realized her generation was lacking. Facebook was great, but it wouldn’t deliver a pot roast.
Tentatively at first, Betsy becomes a regular fixture at her mother’s Monday Bridge Club. Before long, she braves the intimidating world of Bridge and comes under its spell. But it is through her friendships with the ladies that she is finally able face years of misunderstandings and family tragedy. The Bridge Ladies become a Greek chorus, a catalyst for change between mother and daughter.
By turns darkly funny and deeply moving, The Bridge Ladies brilliantly weaves the stories of the Bridge Ladies, along with those of Betsy and her mother across a lifetime of missed opportunities. The result is an unforgettable and profound journey into a hard-won—but never-too-late—bond between mother and daughter.
Title: The Bridge Ladies: A Memoir
Author: Betsy Lerner
Genre: Nonfiction | Memoir
Publisher: Harper Wave
Published: May 3, 2016
Format: Paperback, 320 pages
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]
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.
At times, I forgot I was reading a memoir the writing is so like a novel. Congratulations to Betsy Lerner for turning the memoir genre a bit on its edge by writing her life story in such a way that one almost believes the book they’re holding is fiction.
Lerner’s characters, whom we all know are real people, are well crafted and developed, and their images float through your mind as if they live next door. The scenes where Betsy is learning to play bridge bring a sense of realizing there is something your mother and her friends can do with ease that you struggle to understand.
The humanness running throughout The Bridge Ladies is its greatest gift to the reader. Our assumptions about other people are often misplaced, and Betsy Lerner uses her own relationship with her mother to point out how wrong we can be, even in our own families.
I highly recommend The Bridge Ladies if for no other reason than Betsy Lerner is an excellent writer. So excellent in fact I immediately purchased two of her other books. I don’t often do that, but I knew I wanted to know more about this writer’s writing.
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.
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