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Ordinary Life: Stories

3.93 of 5 stars 3.93  ·  rating details  ·  3,618 ratings  ·  139 reviews
In this superb collection of short stories, Elizabeth Berg takes us into remarkable moments in the lives of women, when memories and events come together to create a sense of coherence, understanding, and change. 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 ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 13th 2003 by Ballantine Books (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
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
Alina De teresa
I liked a lot. It is a tribute to daily life and how our relationships make our lives worth living.
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

She thinks sometime that she would like to marry him but she is already severely married. Sometimes it just happens that you meet people in the wrong order.

I have admiration for people who can take tenderness where they find it.

Why don’t we separate – keep each other in our wills, attend graduations and weddings and funerals together, date, even, but live apart? I don’t know, I guess it’s because love works that way, that the person who bedevils you is also the one you need.

Christmas Ev
Ray Ziemer
This collection of short stories was among a number of Elizabeth Berg books lying around which our friend Roberta had recommended to my wife Dawn. It’s been a while since I have read any good non-science fiction short stories. Amazingly, this collection comprises fourteen stories in which absolutely nothing happens! That’s not entirely a bad thing, but not what I am used to. They are just very thoughtful considerations of the characters’ lives. Berg’s style is straightforward and plain for all t ...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 is why I love Elizabeth Berg. In this passage from the story Caretaking she walks about vacationing with her parents at 7 years of age.
"I like the monotonous drone of the tires on the pavement, the containment in one small space all the things I need in my life. I will be safe forever - I can tell by the simple sight of the back of my parents' heads. They are up: alert, careful, and making the right decisions. I can stare into the sky until I sleep for real, worryless."

I am taken back to m
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
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.
Elly Wendy
5* Some time ago I read some Berg novels and thus remembered her name. When I saw this audiobook of short stories, I eagerly downloaded it. Again I have been impressed and delighted. Incredible work. Such insights. A really good writer can pull bits and pieces out us and shine the spotlight on those pieces. Sometimes we laugh out loud; sometimes we weep gently.
At the end, I immediately started again at the beginning. Yes, this is definitely a five-star. The readers add to the experience, so I al
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
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
Linda Howland
I have never been disappointed in an Elizabeth Berg book. She enters your mind, heart and soul like no other author can. In this series of short stories, the ordinary things in life become so meaningful and thought provoking. You will say I have been there or would like to be there!
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
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
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.
I don't usually like short stories but I love Elizabeth berg.wonderful
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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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