Monday, January 22, 2007
The Art of Mending
I admit that one of the reasons I picked up The Art of Mending by Elizabeth Berg was the cover. It’s a comforting picture of a glass cabinet full of material. As someone who loves textiles, the combination of the title and the picture drew me in. I’ve also chosen wine by the label sometimes. And sometimes, this actually works!
I was hesitant about this book because I put Elizabeth Berg in the “Oprah Books” category. Her book Open House actually was an Oprah Book Club selection. And being the stubborn snob that I am, I always picked up Berg’s books then put them back down. But I’ve decided that I need to let go and try things I don’t think I’ll like. And it worked, because I really liked this book.
The story revolves around Laura, and it’s told from her point-of-view. You get to know her through flashbacks, descriptions of photos, and her own thoughts and actions. She and her husband and children go to her parents’ home for a family reunion. There, her younger sister tells her and their brother about horrible experiences with their mother. They are shocked and don’t know how to respond. Then something happens that forces them to face these allegations by searching their memories and listening to what their sister has to say. And then they have to decide what to do next to stay a family. It reminds me a little of Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood because of the time period and the mother/daughter relationships. The heart of the book is expressed best by the jacket copy: “…[Berg] confronts some of the deepest mysteries of life, as she explores how even the largest sins can be forgiven by the smallest gestures, and how grace can come to many through the trials of one.”
As to the title, it is the metaphor for the book. Laura says in the book that her family still makes fun of her love of all things domestic, but she doesn’t mind. She says, “As for mending, I think it’s good to take the time to fix something rather than throw it away…you’ll always notice the fabric scar, of course, but there’s an art to mending: If you’re careful, the repair can actually add to the beauty of the thing, because it is testimony to its worth.” This is said early in the book, and it’s not until you get further into the story that you realize that many things are worth mending.
Of course, I also enjoyed the descriptions of Laura’s quilting career—her trips to the fabric store, her love of fabrics, her workroom, how she stands in front of her design wall moving pieces around, and how she sees possible designs in things all around her. But that’s just me.
And just as a side note, I also got it as large print, and oh my gosh was it easy to read. I’m getting so old. It’s an easy, quick read anyway, but it was even quicker with large print.
Anyway, give it a try. Yes, I teared up several times during the book, and there were times I wasn’t sure if I liked Laura, but she definitely grows through the story. There are several memories in the story, where Laura relates a story from her childhood that has a correlation to what’s going on in her life now. I got a little tired of that but not enough to stop reading, but I did do a little skimming near the end because I just wanted to see what was going to happen.
So, have you read any good books lately?