Mangy Cat's Reviews > The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted: And Other Small Acts of Liberation

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted by Elizabeth Berg
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Dec 07, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: contemporary-fiction
Recommended to Mangy by: Library
Recommended for: Women, ages 50+
Read in December, 2008 , read count: 1

This book is a collection of short stories about women (mostly middle-aged and older) who make small attempts (intended and unintended) to change from some behavior that is considered normal or common for them, and what happened as a result.

To be completely honest, as I read through the first handful of stories, I began to wonder why I was wasting my time. Though the characters were deep and very endearing, and the writing was at times quite delicious, the tales seemed to be about women failing to find true liberation as a woman.

About the time I got to the short entitled "The Day I Ate Nothing I Remotely Wanted," which is about the middle, the irony of these women's lives began to sink in. I picked up this book thinking that it would be full of stories about doing things we think we shouldn't and how it ended sneakily happy. (Don't ask me why I picked it up in the first place; I really have no idea!)

However, the truth of the matter is, most of the time when we try to break the rules and do something we really shouldn't, it doesn't end well. Or if it does, it doesn't deliver what we thought it would.

I can't fully explain how these stories touched my heart, but they did. There is a beautiful vulnerability that readers are clandestinely exposed to when experiencing a moment in the life of a fictional character. I looked into the minds of these women, and they were made memorable and taught me valuable lessons. They also gave me a little insight into the heart of my future self, a woman perhaps twenty or thirty years older than I am now.

Even though half the book kept me complaining about being disappointed with the way the shorts ended, I'm giving Ms. Berg's book 4/5 stars because her characters are fabulously structured. I wanted to know these women, learn from their vulnerability or steadfastness or just plain determination to find joy in the midst of the mundane.

Also, her writing is very, very good. I can see why she has books on the New York Times best sellers list and has curried the favor of Oprah. She writes quite well. There were many lines I would have liked to have highlighted. I've broadened my own craft by reading these stories.

I believe my initial dissatisfaction sprouted from a few things: a gloss of unnecessary profanity (though few of the main characters used it themselves), some inappropriate subject matter (which real women are wont to talk about), but mostly from my own unmet, preconceived expectations.

These stories would, I believe, be better and more fully appreciated by women ages fifty and better. As I said, the irony of these women's lives was lost on me initially, simply because I lack the experience necessary to empathize with the characters' desires. But as I also said, I have grown from reading this, and that's really the point of reading anything, isn't it?

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NOTE: I wouldn't recommend it to my CP teens AT ALL. Don't put it on your to-read list, girls. Not until you're at least 30 years old. Otherwise, it will probably make no sense at all. :oP
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