- Publisher: Penguin Random House Audio Publishing Gr
- Date: Apr 2009
From the book
"Mom," Helen's daughter says. "Mom. Mom. Mom. Don't."
Helen leans into the mirror to pick a clot of mascara off her lashes. This mascara is too old. She'll buy a new tube today, now that she intends to be a regular working woman, someone who, rather than making a thirty-foot commute from bedroom to study and working in her pajamas, actually dresses up and goes out of her house to be among other human beings. She'll buy some antiaging mascara, surely they've come up with that by now. What she really needs is an antiaging mirror.
"It's not cute, what you're doing," Tessa says. "It's not funky or cool or fun. You'll hate it."
Helen turns to face her. "How do you know? You're talking about yourself. Just because you didn't like working there doesn't mean I won't."
"Mom. Imagine yourself folding the same sweater one hundred times a day. Imagine saying, 'Welcome to Anthropologie!' to hostile customers who only want to be left alone."
"I hardly think they'll be hostile."
Tessa waves her hand as though flicking away the blackfly of her mother's ignorance. "You've never worked retail. You have no idea how rude people can be. Or how weird."
Helen refrains from answering, Expect the worst, and you'll get it! She applies a thin coat of coral-colored lipstick.
"Too yellow for your complexion," Tessa says. She is the beauty editor at an online magazine; she makes pronouncements like this with some regularity.
"You gave it to me!"
"I know, but it's too yellow for your complexion. Throw it out. I'll get you more red tones."
Helen looks at the tube. "I don't want to throw it out. I'll donate it somewhere."
"Mom. Mom. It's used."
"Well, then, I'll give it to Grandma." Helen regards herself in the mirrror. She sees that Tessa is right about the color of the lipstick on her. She wipes it off and puts on a pinkish shade. Then she walks to the front hall closet to get her coat.
"This is going to be a complete waste of your time," Tessa says. One eyebrow is arched, and her head is tilted in the "I can't wait to say I told you so" position.
"The operative word being 'your.' "
"It's my time. I can waste it if I want to. And anyway, it won't be a waste. I need a change of pace."
Tessa puts on her coat. She does not button it, and Helen does not tell her to. As she is frequently reminded, her daughter is twenty-seven years old. Still, it's November and cold outside, an insinuating dampness in the air. Tessa does wrap her muffler securely around her throat, Helen is happy to see.
"You aren't going to listen to me no matter what I say," Tessa says. "You're going to go down there and apply and they'll hire you because they're desperate and then you'll see how disgusting it is to work with spoiled brats and then you'll quit."
"Well," Helen says. "It will be something to do. Won't it. Do you want a ride back downtown?"
Tessa wordlessly exits the house, letting the storm door fall shut instead of holding it open for her mother, who is close behind her. Helen figures the whole way downtown, Tessa will continue to punish her, and she considers for a moment telling her daughter to take the el home, but she won't. It's her daughter. She wonders how many times in her life she's told herself that.
There is silence until they are out of Oak Park and onto the Eisenhower, and then Helen looks over at Tessa, who is pointedly staring straight ahead.
"Who's spoiled?" she asks, and is gratified to see Tessa smile, then reach over and turn on the CD player. It's over.
Tessa selects Nicole Atkins's Neptune City and...
"Berg is a tender and enchanting storyteller who wisely celebrates the simple, sustaining elements of life... A keen and funny observer, she is the poet of kindness...This [is] an insightful, graceful, and romantic novel." - Booklist
"Berg gracefully renders, in tragic and comic detail, the notions that every life--however blessed--has its share of awful loss, and that even crushed, defeated hearts can be revived." - Publishers Weekly
"[Berg's] warmth, humor, and forgiving eye for human nature, mixing wry observation with heartwarming moments, make this a pleasant read." - Library Journal
"A charming read." - People