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Once Upon a Time, There Was You

3.18 of 5 stars 3.18  ·  rating details  ·  4,374 ratings  ·  735 reviews
Even on their wedding day, John and Irene sensed that they were about to make a mistake. Years later, divorced, dating other people, and living in different parts of the country, they seem to have nothing in common—nothing except the most important person in each of their lives: Sadie, their spirited eighteen-year-old daughter. Feeling smothered by Irene and distanced from ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published October 4th 2011 by Ballantine Books (first published January 1st 2011)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Kathy
I used to love Elizabeth Berg's books, eagerly awaiting the publication of each novel and then snatching it off the shelf to read immediately. The last few have been less than stellar and sadly, Once Upon a Time, There Was You continues the slide.

A disjointed book at best, this novel tells the story of Irene and John, divorced some years now, who are brought back together by a tragedy involving their daughter, Sadie, who is 18. Both Irene and John are selfish, self-absorbed and dull, dull, dead
...more
Sheila DeChantal
As I continue my way through the works of Elizabeth Berg I found myself with her newest release, Once Upon A Time There was You. I felt almost from the beginning that this book was going to be predictable. A few pages in, I felt as though I knew how it would all end and with a resigned sigh, I proceeded deeper into the book.

It made me, and hopefully you as well, happy to know I was wrong.

Irene was not a strong woman. She was self conscious about her body, her age, and the fact that her daughter
...more
Michelle Robinson
I am an Elizabeth Berg FAn. She has written some of my favorite novels.

This was good but just did not seem to be as good as some things that I have read by her in the past such as, Open House (I loved this one) and Talk Before Sleep ( I didn't think I would stop crying when I read this).

The one factor that all of the works, that I have read, by Berg have in common is that the emotions the characters have are so authentic or realistic. While I found Irene to be prickly and a little hard to like,
...more
Melissa Acuna
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Tmholland38
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Karen
This book is by one of my favorite authors, so it pains me to tell you that it’s a huge disappointment. I wasn’t even sure what it was about for a long time, but think it’s supposed to be telling a coming of age story of Sadie, and how her (divorced) parents Irene and John deal with her process of separating from them and becoming an adult. The problem is that there are so many sidetracks that really do nothing at all to move the story forward, and worse, are boring. They drag it down. There is ...more
Alex
At First Sight: At age 36, John and Irene got married against their better judgement, mostly because they were growing older and didn't want to be alone. But neither of them had a good example to follow, both coming from broken homes and with less than ideal mother figures.

So it's no surprise that 20 years later they are divorced and living at different ends of the country - Irene in San Francisco and John in San Paul- with only their 18 year old daughter Sadie as a link between them.

While Ire
...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Elizabeth Berg, your first half-dozen books were keepers for me; I could read lines from these books over and over again and they would make me cry and laugh at the same time, every time. Not so your last three novels. (I feel terribly sad telling you this. Yet I feel I must tell you this.)




You start with a promising premise: A man and woman marry, both feeling great misgivings about the wedding, and later divorce. But it never felt like you loved these characters like I felt you loved your char
...more
Doreen Fritz
Berg returns to some familiar themes: love, marriage, parenting, childhood memories, and sense of self. On their wedding day both John and Irene realize they should not get married, but they go ahead. Years later, divorced, they are brought back together to deal with a crisis involving their 18-year-old daughter Sadie. John lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, and Irene and Sadie live in San Francisco. Most of the questions raised in this novel are about marriage. Why do some marriages succeed and othe ...more
Cathy
Here's something that doesn't happen often, an Elizabeth Berg novel that I didn't particularly enjoy.

The good: It is refreshing to occasionally read a story about some inconceivably bad event happening to a character, and the character actually getting past it. So many books I've read have had a terrible thing happen, and it rips apart the lives of anybody even loosely connected to that character. In this case, the repercussions of "the event" are widespread, but on a realistic level.

The bad: Wh
...more
Roberta
This was my first Elizabeth Berg book. I chose it because it was one the few audiobooks available on the library website whose description appealed to me. On the positive side, I was engrossed while listening to it. I like her style and flow. However, I found the plot to be totally unrealistic. First of all, I found it really cowardly that Berg chose to make Sophie's "trauma" so innocuous. Really - if you don't have the heart to create a really traumatic scene, don't write one at all. The abduct ...more
Nancy
I see that I'm in the minority in thinking this book was great. But I'm going to stick with five stars (four and a half?) because I enjoyed the book so thoroughly. You seldom get to read about relationships between people in older middle age-- and the conversations and details feel very real.

The story at the center of the book: what happens to the primary characters' daughter, Sadie, and the aftermath of a terrifying event. I was hooked on the plot and the believable resolutions of all of the st
...more
Jeannine
Oh, I do love Elizabeth Berg, however her last two novels have been predictable, just ok. I wanted to like this one, but like her last one, it just didn't resonate much. The characters were prone to spend a lot of time reminiscing about things that didn't add to the story at all. Ms. Berg usually weaves these kinds of things throughout her stories in impeccable fashion, but not here.

I really enjoy much of her older work, but Home Safe is the last novel of hers I really enjoyed.

Bummer.
Mary E.
Once Upon a Time, There was You by Elizabeth Berg, is an engaging study of family dynamics, its humor, frustrations, scares, scars and secrets.

Even on their wedding day, John and Irene had serious reservations whether they were doing the right thing. But their plans were made and they did what was expected of them. Now divorced and living in different parts of the country, the one thing they have in common is their mutual love for their eighteen-year-old daughter, Sadie.

Sadie lives with her mo
...more
Joy
I'm working my way through all of Elizabeth Berg's books. This book was about a long-divorced man and woman who are brought together at a crisis time with their daughter. They review why they loved each other and what problems separated them. I thought it was a rather thoughtful look back over their marriage without bitterness, just some sadness. Some great quotes: "He resents the very posture of people who are online, the way they bend their backs over their various devices, blocking out any po ...more
Dana
I DID enjoy this book, but it was one of those quick, light weight novels that I won't remember a year from now. Elizabeth Berg has the ability to write with depth, to create multi-dimensional, heart-tugging characters, but she has fallen short of her abilities in recent years. She has never done as well as she did in Talk Before Sleep or in Range of Motion. After those 2 hits, she seems to have sold books based on her name, which is not really unusual in the world of book publications. I haven' ...more
Nicole
Nobody can write dialogue like Elizabeth Berg. She just gets how people talk, how they struggle to communicate their feelings and motivations, and how conversations can turn quickly and be misunderstood. She also can paint little vignettes, like a mom sharing a memory from her childhood with her daughter, that ring so true and real. I didn't give this book more stars, however, because the character of Sadie was just so annoying. Sadie's parents acted as if the sun set and rose on their wise (how ...more
Ruth
I have read many of Berg's books and I must say this is perhaps the one that I have liked the least.

Irene and John were married for about nine years and then divorced. They had one daughter, Sadie who lived with her controlling mother and missed her father who remained in their hometown of Minneapolis while they moved to San Francisco. The few weeks a year when Sadie went to go visit her father never seemed to be enough for either of them.

One day, Irene is frantic and calls John. There is a cr
...more
♥Xeni♥
I read this book together with the Serious About Books group for August 2011.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this book. Based on the cover it looks like a Nicholas Sparks novel (and there is always so much sadness in them!) and from the blurb it felt a bit like one too. But that really wasn't the case.

This story taught me quite a bit about love, companionship, relationships, growing older and marriage. I felt so connected to the characters, even though the parents (John and Irene) are in the
...more
Haley
This was my first Elizabeth Berg novel and, while not overly impressed with the book as a whole, I'm sure I'll read more.

The most redeeming quality is that she has wonderful characters and character development. By the end, I felt that I absolutely knew each person and I love that. I could picture Irene, John, and the struggles they had both together, and apart. She did a great job with their daughter, Sadie, also - an accurate portrayal of a teenager thoroughly embarrassed by her mother.

Howeve
...more
Rashika (is tired)
This (non) review contains spoilers

You know what the sad thing is? If it weren't for that ending I am pretty sure I would have given this book a 4 (or 3).

Yes I realize that an ending shouldn't affect my rating by such a large amount but it does. It does because for starters I was looking for a feel-good book, not one that would crush my heart into little pieces (let me say that the ending isn't actually sad, more like bitter sweet). The author had me so (slight exaggeration) emotionally inves
...more
Louise
John and Irene’s marriage only lasted eight short years. They divorced when their daughter, Sadie, was 8-years-old. Irene moved away making her the prime caregiver to Sadie and John visited when he could and had Sadie every August.

Their marriage and relationship was tenuous at best. In my opinion, it failed because of Irene. She is an odd character who is deeply lonely and neither she nor John had much in common other than their beloved Sadie.

When something terrible happens to Sadie, they come t
...more
Jinky
(Playaway digital audio, 9.5hrs)
The beginning left me saying, "Oh no!". Irene knew on her wedding day that she shouldn't marry John but she went ahead and married him anyways. One could say that it was cold feet. But, several years later they did divorce and lived thousands of miles apart. Then only to find themselves together again because they're 18yo daughter was missing. So they had to deal with each other while they wait for their daughter's return.

I was alright with the read up until the
...more
Gloria Bernal
There were some good nuggets in this such as page 276: "You have so much to give, but I feel like you're all the time digging in the tomato bin, saying "Where are the Apples?" Also the page about Phil Donohue, how he was one of the first men to encourage women to speak their minds and not shush them. In fact, he ran around his audience getting the mike in front of their faces. That is how I remember his show too. Berg's dialogue is always engaging, she is one of my favorite authors and I always ...more
Candice
An excellent portrait of how parents' marriages can affect those of their children. Both John and Irene had difficult childhoods due largely to their parents' unhealthy marriages. When the book opens, on the eve of their wedding day, each of them is confiding to a friend that they don't think they should go through with the wedding. But they do, the result is disastrous, and eventually they divorce

From that mistake of a wedding, we fast-forward several years. John remains in St. Paul while Irene
...more
Linda
It’s always hard for me to write a review of a book by a favorite author when I am disappointed with the book. Such is the case with Elizabeth’s Berg’s latest. I usually love her books and relate to the characters but this book felt flat and uninvolving.

The basic storyline revolves around Irene and John, a middle aged divorced couple who live in different states and share custody of their daughter Sadie. When a family emergency arises John and Irene are brought back together and we learn a lot a
...more
Christy
1.5 star DNF
I just couldn't bring myself to care what happened to these tedious, unlikeable people. Spoilers
The abduction subplot was silly. Being knocked around and then locked in a shed and never bothered for over 2 days seemed unlikely beyond belief. Much as I didn't want Sadie to be raped or murdered, it was unrealistic that being locked up was the extent of her experience.
But mainly, I just could not stand Irene. Every little anecdote that was thrown in was more boring than the next, and n
...more
Kim
Oh, the pain of divorce, and the effect on kids. And, how they absorb a lot of the shock and the feeling. This is what this book is about. And, about moving on. Elizabeth Berg wrote this book as if she has been there/done that.
Traci Haley
Sigh. I'm really starting to wonder why I continue reading Elizabeth Berg. I just don't like her characters anymore. The characters in "Once Upon a Time, There Was You" were just TOO selfish and TOO immature. I spent half the time yelling at Irene for being such a controlling bitch and half the time yelling at Sadie for being an uncaring brat. And then in the end, basically everyone gets what they want and is happy... except for Irene? Not fair, not satisfactory... not her best book at all.

On th
...more
Julie
Elizabeth Berg's books always make me cry big fat empathetic tears. Her writing can be so perceptive that I flinch. So why did she mess up her thoughtful plot with abduction, rape, cancer, and suicide? Each one of those subjects is devastating in their own way. Layered together was confusing. She had a strong central story about a couple who divorced and how they moved on. I could have gone for subtle nuance and enjoyed her sage observations. Her small group of characters in this book were so we ...more
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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 like to listen to sad music when I’m sad. It seems honest. It makes me cry, and sometimes a
good cry is the only thing that can make you feel better.”
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“People are stupid. Why are they so stupid? There is an algorithm for the way humans were designed: love and be loved. Follow it and
you’re happy. Fight against it and you’re not. It’s so simple, it’s hard to understand.”
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