three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
17-July-Aug-2005
user_rating: 
0

A-YearPleasuresFifty-five-year-old Betta Nolan’s husband left her with one request before his death: to find joy in her sorrow and start a new life. So, she does just that. Leaving Boston for a small town near Chicago to start afresh, she’s determined, despite her great loss, to enjoy the simple pleasures of daily life. She rekindles her friendships with old college roommates who inspire her to open a shop called "What a Woman Wants." She also befriends a young handyman and starts to date another man. In the process, she finds compassion, starts to heal, reinvents her life—and learns to let go.
Random House. 206 pages. $24.95.
ISBN: 1400061601

Chicago Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"It is the opposite of the usual contemporary social novel, as its characters are people whose hearts are not clogged, and its problems are immediate and solvable. At the same time, it doesn’t pretend that sex and money and fame are our deepest dreams." Sandra Scofield

Ft. Worth Star-Telegram 4 of 5 Stars
"The Year of Pleasures is a quick read, but its story lingers. In a time when bestseller lists are filled with books that chronicle fantastic discoveries in faraway places, it’s refreshing to read a novel that explores the most intriguing and emotion-packed adventure of all: everyday life." Peyton Woodson Cooper

Providence Journal 3.5 of 5 Stars
"Berg balances Betta’s palpable sadness with simple observations of the illusive ‘good life’ many of us long for. … [She] captures the noble balancing act one strives for when life as one has known it is in fact falling apart." Karen Laing

Virginian Pilot 3.5 of 5 Stars
"… Berg’s lesson extends to those who aren’t widows; there is no reason to wait for a tragedy to begin transforming the way we live. … Berg’s writing may be in danger of becoming formulaic, but with The Year of Pleasures, she offers a lovely template for improving our outlook on life." Diana Diehl

Denver Post 2 of 5 Stars
"[Such poetic] writing can’t make up for a lack of real plot and strong narrative, which is why The Year of Pleasures … is a prime example of what a novel should not be." Dorman T. Shindler

Critical Summary

Berg is a true women’s writer whose latest exploration of one woman’s joys and sorrows will not disappoint. Her 14th novel (after 2004’s The Art of Mending) asks how we can find personal connections and transform our lives. Unlike many novels, it actually provides satisfying, if slightly formulaic, answers. Critics agree that the characters, from a college student to Betta’s single-mom neighbor, stand out for their empathic, realistic portrayals. Berg’s poetic language and command of small details relating to character and scenery impressed critics as well. Yet Year of Pleasures may not be Berg’s best effort to date. A few reviewers criticized a relatively weak plot with its obvious message about love, life, and finding the pleasures in ordinary things—even if it’s all true.