Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Get a Grip, Girl


Home Safe
by Elizabeth Berg

Elizabeth Berg is a wonderful writer - she has some turns of phrase that are breathtaking. However, this is not her best work. Home Safe is a pretty good story, but the problem is that I found the main character really irritating. Helen is a writer whose husband, Dan, has died unexpectedly. A year after his death, she is still mired in the loss. Now, I know that I would still be grieving a year after losing my spouse, but Helen comes across as someone who misses her husband as a handyman and person who took care of her more than as a person, friend, or companion. At one point she recalls her Dan saying to her "Do I have to do everything?" Perfectly seriously, she responds "Yes." She believes that as an artist she brings her imagination to the relationship, and that he should be responsible for everything else (household repairs, finances, etc.). Barf.

I know that there are divisions of labor in any household, and there are things that E. takes primary responsibility for - lots of them (E., darling, let me officially thank you for all you do). But geez I hope if something happened to E. (God forbid) I would pull myself together and not let my house, career, and family fall into decay. I know that for the sake of our children E. would do his best to carry on if I were to suddenly disappear. Maybe I am unsympathetic, and I certainly acknowledge that there is lots I don't know about home maintenance, but this woman has trouble even calling a repair person. Makes me want to shake her. She also seems really whiny, hardly a quality that endears the reader to her problems. I also get irritated with her husband (in the flashbacks of their relationship) for putting up with her infantile behavior. He's not doing her any favors, which is shown by her downward spiral after he dies.

Loss is an inevitable part of life, especially when we invest ourselves heavily in the relationships that are most important to us. Berg does a good job of painting a picture of deep love and trust between Dan and Helen. I know that people grieve differently and cope differently with the difficult times of life. Perhaps I should not judge Helen until I have walked a mile in her shoes, which I pray is not for a very long time.

Reverent Reader

3 Comments:

At 8/26/09, 6:31 PM , Blogger Steven said...

"...and not let my house, career, and family fall into decay, as he would if I were to suddenly disappear." What a knife in the old spousal ribs!! Tell E. I'll be glad to help him put dishes in the dishwasher, or something equally helpful, should this untoward event ever occur.

 
At 8/27/09, 3:19 PM , Blogger Reverent Reader said...

Steve - I had a misplaced appositive phrase there. Thanks for catching it. Of course I meant that my Ed would rise to the occasion, not like the doofus in the book. I've corrected it!

 
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