Random House synopsis: In this new novel, beloved bestselling author Elizabeth Berg weaves a beautifully written and richly resonant story of a mother and daughter in emotional transit. Helen Ames–recently widowed, coping with loss and grief, unable to do the work that has always sustained her–is beginning to depend far too much on her twenty-seven-year-old daughter, Tessa, and is meddling in her life, offering unsolicited and unwelcome advice. Helen’s problems are compounded by her shocking discovery that her mild-mannered and loyal husband was apparently leading a double life. The Ameses had painstakingly saved for a happy retirement, but that money disappeared in several large withdrawals made by Helen’s husband before he died. In order to support herself and garner a measure of much needed independence, Helen takes an unusual job that ends up offering far more than she had anticipated. And then a phone call from a stranger sets Helen on a surprising path of discovery that causes both mother and daughter to reassess what they thought they knew about each other, themselves, and what really makes a home and a family.
Helen isn’t handling life very well after her husband’s death. It’s a good thing she has her best friend, Midge as well as her mother to set her straight from time to time. While Helen is learning to be the person who pays bills, hires repairmen, and generally take care of everything, she’s also managing to interfere in her adult daughter’s life. At one point Helen’s mom says “I think you need to let Tessa grow up. You need to let up on her. I’ve been meaning to say that for a long time. And as long as I’m being honest, I think you need to stand on your own feet a little better than you do. You’re capable of more than you know. Ever since you were a little girl, you’ve had a habit of hanging back and letting others do for you what you should do for yourself.” Helen decides to accept a job teaching a writing class to a group of people at the library. Each person has a story to tell and Helen guides them in writing. I think Berg could write a book just about this group. It was a wonderful part of Home Safe.
Helen has decisions to make, both large and small. She learns to stand on her feet and gathers confidence along the way. I enjoyed seeing the small changes that start to add up in Helen’s life. This is a book about hope and having the courage to move forward when one’s definition of normal changes.
Home Safe would be a good book club selection.