Sunday, April 17, 2016

The Bridge Ladies by Betsy Lerner - A Fabulous Mother's Day Gift

Bridge Ladies
For several years I followed Betsy Lerner's blog about writing. Then, somehow, I thought she had gone away and I was devastated. She enthralled me. Her humor was wry, her profanity infectious, her self-deprecation remained mercifully far from self-flagellation. And, I always sensed that we had  something in common. I'm happy to say that she's back and we do!
Let me say, unequivocally, that I loved "The Bridge Ladies," Ms. Lerner's memoir that examines her often fraught relationship with her mother and the efforts that she's taken, not to make amends, but to see through a different lens. Like so many of us who grew up in the '60's and '70's, getting out from under the yoke of parents and rules was paramount. There was none of this helicopter parenting that's choking today's kids, delaying their maturation by decades. We couldn't wait to be on our own and coming back home after college felt like the ultimate failure.
Betsy Lerner is refreshingly honest about her own rebellion which began at puberty and is maybe, just now, beginning to settle down. She and her mom, Roz, were at loggerheads constantly. If one said the sky was blue, the other saw it black. Criticism was the name of the game. It was not a time when parents were touchy-feely, and to say "I love you?" Well, it just wasn't done. Did we spend so much time chafing against everything our folks stood for in an effort to test their love?
Lerner sets out to better understand her mother through the bridge ladies, the four women who have met with her mom every Monday for over fifty years to nosh and play cards. By listening and observing, culling as much from what's not said as from what is, Lerner discovers that these women, now in their eighties, for whom she had had not a shred of admiration or respect, are actually deeply deserving of both. Her awakening to their attributes comes gradually, as she meets individually with each, asking probing questions about their youth, their marriages, their hopes and dreams. And they in turn, teach her how to play bridge.
I can't say enough about this beautiful book. Lerner, a writer, literary agent and former editor, has a wonderful way with words. There are so many little gems of self-awareness that I wanted to go back, re-read, and immediately pull quotes. She takes us through her bouts with depression, therapy, marriage, and motherhood, recognizing the parallels between her and her mother's life. She softens, as we all do with age, and it's gratifying to watch. How I wish my own mother had lived long enough to become my friend.
Whether you and your mom were best buds or - be honest now - were at each other's throats, this memoir would make a lovely gift for mother's day or for any important woman in your life. Thank you to the publisher, Harper, for allowing me to be an early reader. Look for it next month or place a hold at your public library now.

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