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Ordinary Life

3.95  ·  Rating details ·  5,140 ratings  ·  208 reviews
In this collection of short stories, the bestselling author of Open House and Talk Before Sleep takes us into the times in women’s lives when memories and events cohere to create a sense of wholeness, understanding, and change. 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 t ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published May 13th 2003 by Ballantine Books (first published 2001)
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3.95  · 
Rating details
 ·  5,140 ratings  ·  208 reviews

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Connie G
This collection of short stories mainly deals with relationships, especially in marriages. There were 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
Aug 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Mar 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
I like short stories and appreciate how a writer can get in a mood/setting/characters so quickly. But forewarned, if you haven't been married a long time or over a certain age, these may not appeal to you.

In some of the stories, the women talk about clothing such as nylons, slips and girdles--such historical artifacts now! I sure didn't like washing slips and always questioned why I needed to (until that photo of Diana in the sunlight, before her marriage) but I can still remember one with pink
Brandee Shafer
Jan 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The stories in this book are about relationships: what a pain in the hind end they are, how often full of drudgery, and how we want to quit all of them at one point or another, although perhaps slightly less so the ones with the crazies who raise--or are raised by--us. I could relate to so many little details in the stories, but they're not the sorts of things one wants to own up to in a review; they're embarrassing, intimate. Berg nailed it: the ordinary life-thing, or at least, my ordinary lif ...more
V.S. Kemanis
Aug 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing
One of my readers gave me Ordinary Life: Stories, and mentioned that the themes in the book reminded her of my collection Dust of the Universe, tales of family. I'm so thankful for this gift.

Each story in this collection reflects exactly what the title says, ordinary life. So simple, yet so deep, these stories touch on the exquisite moments we all experience and can relate to. Elizabeth Berg reawakens us to the small things that make us human, make life worth living. She reminds us to be gratefu
Sheri Howard
As with many short-story collections, my rating is an average. Individually, some would have gotten more...some less. Overall, this collection gave me an appreciation for her writing. I'm not sure I would take the time to actually read one of her novels (already too many others on my want-to-read list), but I'd like to find one as an audio-book.
Carolyn Agosta
Jul 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Jo Dunn
Apr 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library, audiobook
Ordinary Life: Stories, Elizabeth Berg's collection of short stories, will speak to 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 am
Mar 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Sydney Avey
Sep 26, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
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
Jan 31, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Angie Rhodes
Dec 07, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: owned
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!
Alina De teresa
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I liked a lot. It is a tribute to daily life and how our relationships make our lives worth living.
Apr 21, 2018 rated it liked it
This is a collection of short stories. I probably have not read a short story since college and actually found it to be something I've missed. My rating is an average of the individual stories. Some were good and a few were excellent. My favorite was "Martin's Letter to Nan". Since reading it, I have found that is story is in response to a full length novel that Elizabeth Berg has written and of course, I feel like I must read that now. But this story in particular was so raw and honest, I had t ...more
Belinda Fry
Apr 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A book of short stories. Loved it, read it in a day. There's one short story where this husband writes his wife a letter. I have to admit, I asked my husband something that was mentioned and he said, "yeah, I agree"......with the husband in the story. Anyway, there's one story about Alzheimer's and I cried. But all in all, it was just the best reading!!
Jul 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some really good short stories centred around relationships. I enjoyed them.
Jenifer Jacobs
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic short stories. Poignant and they ring true to life. I think I’ve found a new author to love.
Nov 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
"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.
Denise Kruse
Jan 24, 2013 rated it liked it
I listened to the audiobook version and the reader was more "expressive" than my inner Elizabeth Berg is. Too many of the male characters were made to sound gruff and grumpy and the females a little whiney. I enjoyed much of the perceptive writing; just didn't love it as I normally do this author. I will read her to myself next time.
Gabe Labovitz
Sep 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Loved this. Very much.

Dec 03, 2009 rated it liked it
If you like Elizabeth Berg's writing you will like her collection of short stories. This book is a good fast read.
Mark Holmberg
May 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
The first story was good--others, not so.
I really like Bergs other books, but am not into serious short stories. There is not enough time to build characters and I didn't find any of these stories very interesting.
Jan 05, 2011 rated it it was ok
A little too ordinary to be entertaining for me
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Wonderful short stories. Elizabeth Berg captures the essence of family relationships
Feb 19, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
More stories about whiny, unhappy women. If I had friends like this, I get rid of them. No women I know go on & on about such ridiculous thoughts.
The only story that was decent was "Martin's Letter to Dan" as it was a response to his wife where there was an entire book about her selfishly up & leaving her husband and life for a road trip with no notice or discussion (The Pull of the Moon). One comment he made that summed up so many of Elizabeth Berg's books - I don't need every thought
Brandi True
Feb 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Meh.... it was ok, the writing itself was not bad.
Short stories are not my favorite anyway, so that definitely factors into my take on the book. For me, many of these characters storylines read like a dripping faucet of nagging, disgruntled women... the kind of stories (and women) I have spend my adult life trying to avoid, if I possibly can without being rude or uncaring.

Though a few of the stories were touching and even memorable, just as many of them were neither. I would much rather have jus
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Berg’s genius for creating unique and fully-fleshed characters is on full display in this wise, compassionate, gently amusing (at times), bittersweet collection. She pulls no punches when dealing with themes of marriage, midlife, aging, and making peace with the many ways our hopes and dreams pass us by. The ultimate note is one of hope and reconciliation. In a time when so many short story collections are filled with themes of nihilism, despair, victimization, and selfishness, Berg’s wise and g ...more
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One of my favourite... 2 14 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
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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.” 6 likes
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