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Ordinary Life: Stories
Elizabeth Berg
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Ordinary Life: Stories

3.92 of 5 stars 3.92  ·  rating details  ·  3,266 ratings  ·  129 reviews
In Ordinary Life, Mavis McPherson locks herself in the bathroom for a week, and no, she isn't contemplating getting a divorce -- she just needs some time to think, and she comes to a surprising conclusion. In Today's Special, a woman recognizes the solace she finds in the simple fare and atmosphere of the local diner and, ultimately, the harmony within her own spirit that...more
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published March 1st 2002 by Sound Library (first published 2001)
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There were several good stories in this collection, but my favourite was Martin’s Letter to Nan. This short story was written in response to readers who had read The Pull of the Moon, and wondered, as I did, how Martin felt when menopausal Nan suddenly took off on a trip by herself, leaving Martin a note to say she didn’t know when she’d be back. As his wife never let him know where she was, The Pull of the Moon was one-sided in its focus on Nan’s letters to Martin, and the journal entries she m...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
There is some really beautiful writing in these stories. I love Elizabeth Berg. I suppose some people would consider her chick lit, but she has so much more depth than that. She has a way of capturing everyday feelings and thoughts we all share but don't know how to express.
Jo Dunn
Ordinary Life: Stories, Elizabeth Berg's collection of short stories, will speak those of us who have experienced marriage, disappointment, child-rearing, joy, despair, childhood, fear, illness, humor, disillusionment and enduring love . . among other emotions evocative of the human condition.

There was not a single story (of the fourteen) that I couldn't relate to - in one way or another. Ms. Berg is another author I "stumbled upon" - only to find that I'd found a gifted wordsmith with an amaz...more
Sydney Avey
Elizabeth Berg is one of my favorite authors. I have commented on all of these stories on my blog posts 365 Short Stories at In her last story, Today's Special, every scene depicts what is special about the ordinary. Want comfort for your body and soul? Head to your locally owned diner where “Gossip isn’t sharp or malicious—it’s necessary, human reporting, and we listen with ears far more sympathetic than critical."

As a writer, I study Berg for the way she introduces...more
At first I was frustrated by the short story format -- I would get really caught up in a character and then it was over. If I was still teaching creative writing, it would be a great example of character stories to build on.

Author's note -- "Martin's letter to Nan" is the answer to What was Martin's response? to The Pull of the Moon novel about 50 yr old woman dealing with menopause and aging. It's a story of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Women say they keep it by their bed. Need to read...more
Angie Rhodes
I loved the book,of short stories by Elizabeth Berg, my favourite one? well it would have to be,Ordinary Life, where Mavis,locks herself in the bathroom, complete with food, blankets, pillows books, orange juice.
Elizabeth s books, have the wonderful dream like quality, that grabs you,and doesn't let go, is it one I would reread? Hell yes!
Although I really like Elizabeth Berg's other books, I was disappointed with this collection of short stories. Probably, it was form that frustrated me most of all since just as I started to get involved with the characters and plot, the story would abruptly end. There was a time when I liked short stories and even tried my hand writing some, but I hardly ever read or write them anymore. I have much more affection for the novel form since it has the scope to develop and sew together various char...more
This was a beautifully written collection of stories. Each one independent of the other, but all focusing on the theme of the daily struggles people face. Some parts were laugh out loud funny. I especially loved Mavis' and Al's story, in which Mavis stays in the bathroom for week as a sort of vacation and her husband having to 'understand' why she feels compelled to do it (and no Al she's not going crazy). Also the story of the woman asking her husband to take a magazine quiz and how that seemin...more
Carolyn Agosta
Ordinary Life is a collection of short stories by one of my favorite contemporary authors, Elizabeth Berg. The first story alone, "Ordinary Life; a Love Story" is worth the price of admission. It captures the small moments that really make our lives, as Mavis locks herself in the bathroom for a week and takes out her memories to thumb over. So many of those memories spoke to me - being young and sharing a bed with a sister, sitting and talking with that same sister later when you are married and...more
Series of short stories - most of them quite good.

One of my favorite stories is a letter from Martin to Nan; who has taken a sabbatical of sorts from her marriage. Martin's perspective is interesting.

Couldn't there be some benevolent intention that graced some lives?

Martin to Nan: Nan you're worrying about the wrong things. Instead of your thighs, worry about the fact that you've lost your sense of sexual self-assurance. When will you women understand that what turns men on isn't what you thin...more
Brandi Johnson
A very dear friend turned me onto Elizabeth Berg and I am grateful to her for the recommendation. After checking out her entire body of work from my library, I decided to start with one of her short story collections. It fit perfectly; gut punch after tiny gut punch as I read about women of all ages navigating varying relationships. White Dwarf was probably my favorite of the bunch; or at least, the one that had what I imagine to be the most honest look at ordinary life.
This collection of fourteen stories looks at various points of view in some of Elizabeth Berg's favorite themes: marriage, illness, parent-child relations, and forgiveness. And as always, she uses her gift for making the ordinary seem extraordinary.

The title story is great. A woman locks herself in the bathroom as a sort of retreat. In appropriate Elizabeth Berg fashion, she looks back on her life and realizes that she is satisfied with it in on its ordinariness. This is the gift Berg gives her...more
This is a collection of short stories. No story is longer than 12 pages, and most are significantly shorter. But typical of Elizabeth Berg, she packs a great deal of honesty and emotion into each of her stories. Three stories in the beginning are shadowed by cancer. "Departure from Normal" gives a realistic description of how surreal a cancer diagnosis feels. Many of the stories are about marriages -- how they endure and survive in the midst of the tediousness of daily life. The stories from the...more
Yvonne Jarrett
A wonderful book of short stories and if you have read The Pull of the Moon, you should read the story in this book called Martin's Letter to Nan. It's what you wanted to know about what Martin thought of Nan leaving him and going on her adventure and what he thought of what she told him in her letters. Wonderful closure to The Pull of the Moon.
Margo Brooks
Audiobook. I forgot the pleasures of reading short stories. I would not recommed the audiobook, because it is too hard to go back and read deeper, but I definitely recommend the book. Berg's characters all lead ordinary lives. They weren't morbidly depressed or engaged in bizarre behaviors. They were your neighbors, or yourself, living each day, and yet in their ordinariness, making life meaningful. There is a little girl trying to start a love affair between her two elderly neighbors, a woman w...more
This was a great collection of short stories. There really wasn't one I didn't like. I enjoyed the very real feeling characters and the central theme of ordinary, everyday life. While they were well-crafted, the stories weren't especially literary, which is all that keeps me from giving this book a full five stars. Really a solidly good book though!
This collection of short stories mainly deals with relationships, especially in marriages. There was also several mother/daughter stories that I especially enjoyed. Another story that I found touching was a coming-of-age story about a young girl helping an immigrant woman learning to speak English.

I had read the novel, The Pull Of The Moon, about a woman having trouble dealing with aging when she turned fifty, and going off on a trip by herself to sort things out. Her husband's response to the l...more
I liked many of the stories, especially the one about the woman who locked herself in the bathroom and the woman who was getting robbed. There were others throughout that were touching or sad or both (mentally ill mom), but there are a couple that weren't that interesting either.
Julie M
Jun 12, 2014 Julie M rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Julie by: Dawn
There is just something about Berg's writing . . I can totally relate to her characters even though most of them are highly dissimilar to me and people I know. She just has a 'way' with characterization, y'know?? These stories were delightful (not all happy, though) to savor one at a time, or in bunches like grapes.

"In “Ordinary Life,” Mavis McPherson locks herself in the bathroom for a week, shutting out her husband and the realities of their life together—and, no, she isn’t contemplating a divorce. She just needs some time to think, to take stock of her life, and to arrive, finally, at a surprising conclusion. In “White Dwarf” and “Martin’s Letter to Nan,” the secrets of a marriage are revealed with the sensitivity and “brilliant insights about the human condition” (From Amazon)

Not every author...more
Laurie Jean
Like ordering a dish of samplers...each wetting the appetite...wanting more but it was just to small a portion...
Julie Stone
As always-Elizabeth Berg writes about the most ordinary things in the most extraordinary way.
This is a collection of seemingly ordinary life stories. They are wonderful, very insightful! I love Berg's writing.
This is a new author (to me) I found and this book is a collection of short stories. I usually do not like short stories as I feel there is not enough time to develop a story in the way I like, but these stories are very good. The first one is about a woman who locks herself in the bathroom for a week to think about life (she cannot afford to go on a vacation so this is what she does instead) It is funny and touching, as are most of the stories. They are, as the title suggests, snapshots into or...more
The audiobook did not hold my interest.
"She is remembering the time she was nine and took apart a jewerly box she loved to see what made the ballerina turn around. Though she paid careful attention to each step, when she tried to reassemble it, it didn't work the way it had before. No one else could fix it either. THe ballerina stayed in place, permanently turned away, oblivious to the music she had danced to before."
The way Berg writes fascinates me. Every sentence having deliberate, weighty meaning.
Jan 03, 2009 Dawn rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes reading Elizabeth Berg.
Recommended to Dawn by: I read all of Elizabeth Berg's books.
Another great book by Elizabeth Berg. This is a book of her short stories, but each one could practically become a book themselves. These are stories of women in everyday life and their thoughts and ideas. One story though is from a man's perspective and Berg wrote it just as well as the others. I truly enjoyed that story, Martin's Letter to Nan because it gave us a glimpse at previous characters from one of her other books (Pull At the Moon).
Joy Marini
This is a remarkably good collection of short stories. Elizabeth Berg's sentiments and reflections really touched me. I liked this book so much that I'll probably buy one or two as gifts. I don't usually buy short story collections, but this one was perfect for when you're not in the mood for a novel and want to just pick up a book and read for 15 minutes or so.

I enjoyed all the stories, but What Stays is my favorite. Lovely.
Donna Barnes
I really really liked the first story "Ordinary Life," and I loved bits and pieces of other stories . However, as a group of stories, I really liked her other book that I read earlier this year (The Day I Ate...) much better than this one. She tackles some really good subjects here, alzheimer's, coming of age, etc. It's just that the stories tended to fizzle out. This read quickly, though. It's just not as good as some of her others.
Every once in awhile I like to read short stories. And, I love Ms. Berg and her writing style so this book was fun to read.

My favorite short story in this book is "Martin's Letter to Nan," a response from the husband in another Berg novel called The "Pull of the Moon."

Elizabeth says of this short story collection that “they are meant to celebrate the extraordinary moments and events that make up ordinary life.”

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One of my favourite... 2 13 Oct 20, 2013 04:30AM  
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Elizabeth Berg is the New York Times bestselling author of many novels, including We Are All Welcome Here, The Year of Pleasures, The Art of Mending, Say When, True to Form, Never Change, and Open House, which was an Oprah’s Book Club selection in 2000. Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year, and Talk Before Sleep was short-listed for the ABBY Award in 1996. The w...more
More about Elizabeth Berg...
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“I understand that he is made up of working cells, just like me--crowded and confused pieces of genius that have been tampered with and now, wounded, go along in the way that they are able.” 4 likes
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