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The Art of Mending

3.62 of 5 stars 3.62  ·  rating details  ·  7,379 ratings  ·  643 reviews
BONUS: This edition contains an excerpt from Elizabeth Berg's Once Upon a Time, There Was You.

It begins with the sudden revelation of astonishing secrets—secrets that have shaped the personalities and fates of three siblings, and now threaten to tear them apart. In renowned author Elizabeth Berg’s moving new novel, unearthed truths force one seemingly ordinary family to re
Kindle Edition, 256 pages
Published (first published 2004)
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At a family reunion, quilt-maker Laura Bartone discovers a horrible family secret from her odd and difficult younger sister Caroline. Although this novel had moments of emotional resonance, there were far too many moments that felt like simply padding, arbitrary and irrelevant to the story. For instance, the details about a dog quilt that Laura is making for a client who is not even named or seen in the novel seemed entirely superfluous, as did the discussion about the hypochondria of a friend's ...more
The Art of Mending is the second-to-last of the fourteen books I read by Elizabeth Berg. The title is apt; it’s a book about healing. The theme seems to be addressed in so many stories these days, that I can find it tiresome, even as I can empathize with its victims. The story here, though, was well-crafted, and this was a more satisfying read than her next novel, The Year of Pleasures. While reading the latter, I frankly had the feeling that Berg had grown weary of writing, and needed a break. ...more
“I think it’s good to take 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.”

An Elizabeth Berg novel is chocolate for the soul. She is a wonderfully gifted writer with the endearing ability to recognize and express idiosyncrasies, frailties, and strengths of relationships through simple yet profound ana
I wanted an easy read, and this was recommended to me by a friend, with the caveat that it was an old-lady novel from Target. I should have taken that more seriously, along with "old-lady novel for women who don't like to think/know how." (No offense, Allison). I believe I got to page 30 before wanting to vomit on myself & the book and then eating my vomit to only re-vomit again. Yep. That good.

My problem with this book, and others in its genre is this: it's recycled, carefully yet poorly c
This little book packed a punch. There's an author interview in the back of the book where Elizabeth Berg talks about how many of her loyal readers didn't like this book, and it's definitely a difficult one to read and lacks a perfect protagonist to adore and cheer for. But I thought the lack of a "hero" or morally perfect character was what made the book work so well. Everyone has their role to play in families, even when--especially when--there's abuse. So many authors try to tackle these issu ...more
Elisabeth Wallace
There is a special kind of person out there, well suited to be a counselor or therapist, who can, and with great fascination, co-opt other people's pain. Reading this novel, it became clear to me that Elizabeth Berg is one of these people. In both this and "We are all welcome here," she readily admits that she is basing the events and circumstances on the extraordinary suffering of other people. She is a writer who has fallen into an unusual sort of pattern. She absorbs the stories of others and ...more
Early on, the characters in this novel captivated me. Laura is a wife, mother, daughter, and a quilter. As she pieces bits of fabrics together to make a quilt, she takes the bits and pieces of her life and her family's personalities to help create a new whole. The book is interspersed (I'm pretty sure I spelled that wrong- live with it) with descriptions of a family photograph album- snapshots in time, that together with what Laura discovers, create a new whole for her family.

There were bits of
Carolyn Agosta
Like a quilt, this story has many pieces which have to be fitted together to make a pleasing whole.

I've read most of Elizabeth Berg's novels. A few didn't quite make a whole for me, this one did. Laura, a maker of 'commissioned' quilts, has to deal with some allegations about their mother by her sister, Caroline. These allegations make Laura look back (somewhat unwillingly) at her childhood with a new perspective.

Just as she would look at fabric with an eye toward whether it would fit or not f
Linda Robinson
When beginning a task, I finish the segment that I like least first. Then it's done and I can move on to the stuff I really like. There isn't a chance to move on to the stuff I really like in this book. I felt nervous reading it "I hope this doesn't happen," and then it did, just as expected. There isn't anyone to empathize with here; the main character isn't dimensional, she reads as flat as her quilts. Perhaps she has emotional troubles as well as the characters with featured problems; difficu ...more
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
Elizabeth Berg is always good for a quick, easy read with some thoughtful observations about ordinary life and relationships.
This is not one of her best, but I still enjoyed it. Her other books have more joy and caring in among the sorrow and emotional exploration. This one was a little more angry. The only truly beautiful, caring, forgiving character in the book is Laura's husband Pete.
The book does have value in that it shows how we can grow up in the same household with our siblings and yet
maybe if i'd been in more of an oprah's book club mood, i would've appreciated this book's lugubrious sentimentality. as it stands, however, i just found it overbearing and annoying. so there's some deep dark family secrets between 3 adult siblings that get slowly....painfully...(just get to the point already!) revealed. but then not much else happens. i should've been clued in when each chapter started with an italicized description of a family photo.
i might give some of her other ones a true (
This is the first Elizabeth Berg book I have read. It was a fairly easy, quick read for me. Since I work with children who have been abused, I tend to shy away from books about abuse. However, this was a bit different because the abuse is not in present day and the characters are adults. While I could understand the characters actions, I didn't like all of the characters some of the time. I thought of my own family and history a lot too. Not that I was abused like the woman in the story but I tr ...more
This is my favorite character of Berg's so far. All of her characters have a kind of blunt, raw honesty about them - unlike other written characters they have flaws that people would be embarrassed to admit to, they are weak and judgmental, and prejudiced, and while it makes you wince sometimes or maybe not love the character Berg creates, you have to admire the creation. This character felt more like me, so I enjoyed the story more.

Laura's sister Caroline is a overly-dramatic, sad, woe-is-me ki
D. Phelps
I have been told that my writing is like that of Elizabeth Berg. If so, I am honored to keep the company of such an authentic, eloquent writer.

In this book, she speaks fluent family: the real kind, with warts and wrinkles and deep gouges. Her narrative, a mix of "how to's," "what if's," and "why not's," begs us to look closer at the human condition, her commentary, an open-heart surgery.

Speaking of baby monkeys (but in reference to all family of origin abuse survivors) she writes: "They were on
This is Elizabeth Berg's newest book at the time I read it, which was in 2004. Again, she has done a wonderful job at story writing. She is definitely one of my favourite authors.

From the dust jacket:

"It begins with the sudden revelation of astonishing secrets-secrets that have shaped the personalities and fates of three siblings, and now threaten to tear them apart. In renowned author Elizabeth Berg's moving new novel, unearthed truths force one seemingly ordinary family to reexamine their disp
Laura returns to her childhood home for the family's annual trip to the state fair. Instead of funnel cake and corn dogs, Laura gets a bitter taste of truth about her family's history. Her younger sister Caroline reveals a secret from her youth that threatens to tear the family apart.

Laura and her brother Steve have long suffered their sister Caroline, the dark figure in the family. Caroline's sour moods and flair for drama have fostered an ambivalence and neglect within her siblings. Laura shru
In The Art of Mending, Laura Bartone is heading to her annual family reunion and looking forward to the fair and a fun and relaxed time with her children, parents, siblings, and husband. Upon her arrival, however, her black sheep sister Caroline makes some shocking allegations about their mother, and Laura must figure out how to deal with and come to terms with her sister's allegations. The matter is further complicated by a death in the family.

Berg is an amazing writer. She keeps you interested
As adults we often question our childhood memories, no matter how clear they are in our minds, they will never be the same as an adult memory…can they be trusted? Abuse is quite easily misconstrued in the eyes of a child. Often abused children seek approval and play into the abuse because any attention is better than none at all. As a child you don’t understand what actions signify love and which hate. In this book 2 siblings are faced with a scary confession by their “odd” sister of abuse at th ...more
I don't remember how I discovered Elizabeth Berg. But I'm glad I did. I haven't loved everything I've read by her, but this one was definitely enjoyable. The Art of Mending is a double entendre for the protagonist, who is a quilter (meaning 1) and asked to bear witness to a painful family situation (meaning 2). In essence, it's a story of wearing blinders, facing truth, and cultivating forgiveness. Who couldn't use a bit of contemplation around those topics?
It was a quick, well-crafted read. The
As God is my witness, I have tried to like Berg's books. Really I have. So many people love them that I start to think something is strange with me. But I just get bored. The plots seem to take a long time to get going, the writing does not grab me, and I give up. I think I just have to accept that her books don't "speak" to me, even though the plot synopses always sound intriguing.
This is a boo-hoo book. I picked this one to listen to on CD because I really enjoyed her other book, We Are All Wecome Here. This one was not nearly as good. It's about a family who has all these emotional problems because one sibling was treated poorly by her mother and it just goes on and on about their little problems and how the sister is sad becuase she thinks her mother doesn't love her and it's just boring after a while. The writing is OK, but I just didn't care about the characters, the ...more
Jul 23, 2008 Marie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who likes Anita Shreve or Jodi Picoult
Recommended to Marie by: Pat Bezanson
As all Elizabeth Berg books - I really enjoyed it! I am staying at my sister's as I read this book. That may have colored it a bit...but the story is about a family with 3 adult children going home. There is a part in the story where the main character is asked by her sister to do something. The main character is hesitant - her husband asks her if she would do the same thing for her best friend. The main character said without a doubt - Her husband asks her why is it easier to do something for a ...more
Mediocre middle-class-family-with-a-(not-that-interesting)-secret saga. Some of her observations about the mundane joys of domestic life were delightful truth nuggets hidden in an otherwise bland tale. I kept reading and reading hoping to find some other, larger truth. It just didn't do it for me. Maybe I can't relate because I don't have siblings and will never have to contend with the issues faced by the middle child, but I got to the end and found myself wishing there had been more there for ...more
Desert Diva
I love Elizabeth Berg's writing...
Sarah Jane Smith
Eh. I mean, it was a compelling story and I finished it very quickly. But a lot of the supporting cast were no more than props to make the MC feel better about herself, the ending lacked any sort of true satisfying emotional conclusion, and I think the decision to have the story told from the perspective of Laura and not Caroline took away from the younger sister's narrative. Laura served as a manageable cipher for readers to see a flawed and toxic family dynamic from the eyes of someone who onl ...more
Laura is excited about returning home to Minnesota. She, her husband, and two children are headed for a family reunion that invariably involves the state fair--a wonderful memory for Laura and her brother Steve. Caroline, the "middle child" never had much fun at the fair even as a child and it looks like that will again be the case. In fact, it turns out that a tragedy occurs and no one has much fun; instead, dark secrets and past resentments threaten to tear the whole family apart.

This was an i
There is a reason that books get left behind. I found this one on a public share shelf in the university library. Looking for anything to read that wasn't a textbook, I picked it up. Domestic stories don't have to be pedestrian, but this one is. If characters are going to be unlikable, they need to at least be complex. A book club book for the ladies who lunch. As my sister would say, "meh..."
Hard to put down, and certainly engaging, but the characters--by the author's own admission--are very hard to like. The protagonist, in particular. I suppose this keeps the book real to life, but it did rather make it frustrating.

Well-written, just not the absolute best book I've read in the last few months.
Christine Rodríguez
It was a compelling story, and I was impressed with the author's efforts to show the importance of mental health, the damaging effects of shaming kids, and the restorative powers of starting over and forgiving. I was a bit annoyed by some of the language used by the main character, Laura. Sometimes it was a little hard to believe that Laure reactions were really credible. Also, Laura clearly has ADD and she kept talking about stories that were unrelated to the plot, but somehow remind her of wha ...more
This book didn't need to be written. The character doesn't really grow as a person from the start to the finish. It's just another book where there is a great buildup of a serious conflict and then a quick, patched-together resolution that isn't satisfying. The title and connection to quilting is lame, and the description of her quilting studio is belabored and overly wrought. Very weak connection between the title of the book and the career of the protagonist. Not necessary, and probably done t ...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
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Open House What We Keep The Year of Pleasures Talk Before Sleep Home Safe

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“There are random moments - tossing a salad, coming up the driveway to the house, ironing the seams flat on a quilt square, standing at the kitchen window and looking out at the delphiniums, hearing a burst of laughter from one of my children's rooms - when I feel a wavelike rush of joy. This is my true religion: arbitrary moments of of nearly painful happiness for a life I feel privileged to lead.” 296 likes
“You are born into your family and your family is born into you. No returns. No exchanges.” 117 likes
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