Home Safe

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  • Format: Trade Paper
  • Copyright: 2009-09-29
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
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The bestselling author of "The Year of Pleasures" and "Open House" returns with a wonderful novel in which a woman and her daughter embark on new adventures.

Author Biography

Elizabeth Berg is the author of many bestselling novels as well as two works of nonfiction. Open House was an Oprah’s Book Club selection, Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year, and Talk Before Sleep was short-listed for an Abby Award. Her bestsellers also include The Year of Pleasures, The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted, and Dream When You’re Feeling Blue. Berg has been honored by both the Boston Public Library and the Chicago Public Library and is a popular speaker at various venues around the country. She lives near Chicago.


Chapter One

“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 Eis

Excerpted from Home Safe: A Novel by Elizabeth Berg
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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