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Once Upon a Time, There Was You
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Once Upon a Time, There Was You

3.23  ·  Rating details ·  6,101 Ratings  ·  900 Reviews
From the beloved New York Times bestselling author of Home Safe and The Last Time I Saw You comes a beautiful and moving novel about a man and woman, long divorced, who rediscover the power of love and family in the midst of an unthinkable crisis. 

Even on their wedding day, John and Irene sensed that they were about to make a mistake. Years later, divorced, dating other p
Hardcover, 280 pages
Published April 5th 2011 by Random House (first published 2011)
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Aug 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: own, 2017
Oh boy--

The good news is that this book was a quick read. The bad news is I took some issues with it. You have a divorced couple with a single daughter, Sadie. Irene and John never wanted to get married and somehow made it work for 8 years before they officially called it quits. Sadie gets into some trouble (which I had major issues with) and her parents have to come together to what? I guess I just don't understand the point of this book. None of the characters grew at all and Irene (the mothe
Aug 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Melissa Acuna
Apr 16, 2011 rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sheila DeChantal
Jul 11, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Apr 19, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Dec 15, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
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
Oct 21, 2011 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 10, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
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,
Sep 11, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Just did a re-read of this book (June 2018), after taking it out accidentally--and was happy to realize that I still really (really) liked it. Here's the old review (and I agree with all of it):

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
Mar 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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.

Mary E Trimble
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing
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
Doreen Fritz
Aug 16, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Aug 05, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jul 09, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 04, 2012 rated it it was ok
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
Dec 06, 2015 rated it liked it
This was an enjoyable but ultimately forgettable portrait of a marriage and divorce. The best part of the book was the description of the fairly dire situation the couple's daughter finds herself in near the beginning, which ultimately causes the divorced parents to interact with each other and provides the opportunity for them each to review the relationship.

The last third of the book had too much talking-head relationship rumination for my taste. All the characters got a turn to talk to one o
Mar 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
A return to familiar themes in Berg's books: marriage, divorce, a teenage daughter. She handles these topics better than anyone, in my opinion. Yes, the characters are a bit dysfuntional but still very compex and likeable, in this case the father and the daughter moreso. And I am glad the ending wasn't what I had expected.
Apr 17, 2012 rated it liked it
It was okay, not one of my favorites of her novels.

Apparently I forgot I read this one before, and picked it up at the library. It's better this time around, maybe because I'm at a different point in my life?
Kris - My Novelesque Life
I will rate after book club
3,5 *
I really enjoyed this story by Elizabeth Berg. It is the story of John and Irene, a divorced couple, and their 18-year-old daughter Sadie. Both John and Irene grew up in dysfunctional families and really questioned themselves on their wedding day as to marry/not marry. They did and of course they divorced 8 years later. It's only ten years later, after Sadie's unfortunate encounter, that John and Irene really learn not just who they are themselves, but they begin to understand each other. Is it ...more
Aug 12, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: 4000-books
I enjoyed this author's writing style and the little family drama that unfolded but Irene got on my nerves. I know a lot of mothers act like this but it is frustrating to see someone try to run another person's life, even if that person is your kid.
Kerri Predragovich
I loved this read! Not sure why the stars are so low!! Very touching and relatable! I wish it would have needed slightly different ! But I really enjoyed it !
Mar 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 4-5-star-books
I read this book before meeting the author at a library program. This is not the typical book I would choose for myself. But, I enjoyed the story immensely. The relationship between the main characters was emotional and intense. I thought the book felt very realistic. I also liked that the story did not end the way I anticipated. The characters were developing right up to the last page.
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
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
May 12, 2011 rated it liked it
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
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
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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
“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.”
“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.”
More quotes…