2 reviews

The Art of Mending
by Elizabeth Berg

Published: 2004
Unknown Binding : 0 pages
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7 clubs reading this now
6 members have read this book
Recommended to book clubs by 2 of 2 members
A BookPage Notable Title
Secrets have been long-buried in a family where cruelty, love and loss have been dramatically interwoven in complex layers. In this powerful novel, Berg introduces readers to Laura Bartone, who returns home for an annual family reunion. There, both she and her ...
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A BookPage Notable Title
Secrets have been long-buried in a family where cruelty, love and loss have been dramatically interwoven in complex layers. In this powerful novel, Berg introduces readers to Laura Bartone, who returns home for an annual family reunion. There, both she and her brother Steve are confronted by their sister Caroline, with allegations of shocking behavior by their mother.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.


Chapter 1

this is the minnesota state fair i remember most:

It was 1960, a Saturday morning when I was eleven years old, and I was the first one up. I had brought my mayonnaise jar stuffed with dollar bills and coins into the living room, spilled the money out onto the carpet, and then stepped over it to turn the television on to a low volume. I was going to watch The Three Stooges while I sorted my fortune. ... view entire excerpt...

Discussion Questions

Questions from the Publisher's Reading Guide:

1. The mother in The Art of Mending treated her children very differently from one another. Do you think this was caused by events in the mother’s own life? Her personality? The personalities of individual children? Does any mother love all of her children equally?

2. Laura was not aware that her mother had treated her sister differently from the way she treated Laura, during their childhood. Why do you think Laura missed this?

3. Though Laura didn’t know what occurred between her mother and her sister, she does seem to have been aware that something was amiss in her family. How did she handle this, both as a child and as an adult? How does this relate to Laura’s creating her own miniature home in the basement of their house? Do you think it is related to Laura’s eventual choice of a career?

4. Once a parent reaches a certain age, is it sill “fair” to confront them, or should a wronged child seek resolution and peace another way?

5. Laura and her brother Steve have trouble believing their sister Caroline’s revelations about her childhood, partly because Caroline has always seemed difficult to deal with. In what ways is she difficult? Does this contribute to her unhappiness?

6. Is it ever possible to believe both people in a dispute when they are saying opposite things? How and why does this occur in the novel?

7. Laura learns of very significant events in her family long after they have occurred, and is forced to deal with them, long afterwards. What does she do? How do you feel about her solutions?

8. When Laura acknowledges her own culpability, she says, of her family, “We are all guilty.” Do you agree?

9. Do any of these characters have false expectations of what forgiveness is and/or what it should do for them? What is your own definition of forgiveness — of oneself and of others?

10. When Caroline forgives her mother, it is, in Laura’s eyes, with astounding ease. But is it really with ease? What contributed to Caroline’s being able to forgive and start now to move on? What was she really after from her family? Did she get what she wanted?

11. Humor seems to play a significant role in the marriage of Laura and Pete. So do pleasant, playful daily rituals. Explore their relationship and what they each provide for one another.

12. Laura’s father knows what happened between his wife and Caroline but he did not do anything about it. Why not? How did his feelings for his wife affect his choices as a father?

13. Laura’s mother is described as being a beautiful woman. Do you think her narcissism is related to a dependence on seeing herself as beautiful? Is the narcissism in part responsible for her inability to see what she is doing to Caroline?

14. Laura reacts strongly to her mother’s treatment of Laura’s daughter, Hannah, after the babysitting incident. What do you think about Laura’s reaction? Do you think Laura’s mother’s reaction to the babysitting incident — to react as if it were Hannah’s fault, and to see Hannah as guilty -- helped Laura gain clarity about what happened to Caroline?

15. Laura’s reaction to move against the repression of her daughter following the babysitting incident affects the resolution of the novel. In what way does Laura’s reaction change her mother?

16. Can the painful events of the past be mended, and if so, how? Caroline’s “art of mending” is to forgive her mother, and to move towards creating a loving outing together. Do you agree with this way of “mending” the past? How important was it, that Caroline could air her feelings with Laura and Steve, to enable this move toward a peaceful solution?

17. The epigraph comments on finding love by way of the truth, and the truth by way of love. How do these notions play out in The Art of Mending?

18. How much of the way Laura interacts with her husband and children is a direct reaction to or against the family in which she grew up? Can we ever truly escape our upbringing?

Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
  "Another disfunctional family"by chris h. (see profile) 12/13/11

Three siblings find their memory of their joint childhood are very different-was it just benign neglect, not-particularly-affectionate parenting,or malignant abuse. Which character has the most accurate... (read more)

  "Tha Art of Mending"by Linda M. (see profile) 02/02/10

This book is thought-provoking--makes one look at family life through different eyes.

  "The Art of Mending"by MaryEllen S. (see profile) 12/03/09

Our book club thought it was a good book. The character development was weak but the book kept our interest to the end.

  "Not my favorite Berg"by diane c. (see profile) 02/14/07

I love, love, love Elizabeth Berg's books. This wasn't my favorite but was still a good read. She develops great, realistic characters and really gets under the skin. Other great Berg books are True... (read more)

  "the part and the whole"by Isabel M. (see profile) 11/25/05

Wow. It's a really thought provoking book. Everything is as subjective and open to interpretation as the photos that the author describes b/w chapters, but everything is also as clear as t... (read more)

  "Story of how differently siblings can experience the same family life"by Shirley W. (see profile) 10/22/05

Anyone who has ever discussed their childhood with their siblings and found they have totally different perspectives on growing up in the same household will be able to relate to this story. The book... (read more)

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