For the past fifty years, Monday afternoons in New Haven have always been the same: Roz, Rhoda, Bea, Jackie and Bette. A card table with four folding chairs (and one dummy seat). The old deck of cards in their worn-out cardboard box. A plate of homemade cookies or brownies on the kitchen counter somewhere, largely untouched. And once they begin the game, hours of silence, punctuated only by the sound of cards being plucked up or snapped down into a row along the perimeter of the table. For Betsy Lerner, it was her routine by proxy. As a child, the Bridge Ladies, her mother Roz and her four best friends, were fascinatingly chic, with their frosted hair-dos and shiny nylons, serious about the game in a way that sent her tiptoeing around the corner of the living room. Later, when Betsy was a teenager, the women seemed hopelessly square and out of touch, perfectly content to sit idly as the sexual revolution erupted outside. And as an adult, comfortably established in New York City, living the dream of a successful career in publishing, to Betsy, the Bridge Ladies were a distant relic of her past - a moment in time around which her childhood and adolescent memories spun.
Then, her husband accepted a job in New Haven, and she found herself right back where she started. Suddenly, as taking care of aging Roz became a bit more hands-on, the days of the Bridge Ladies came hurtling back, their Monday lunch and Bridge Club still ongoing for over fifty years. These were ladies of a particular point in time that bore no resemblance to our ADHD, iPhone-centric, self-obsessed twenty-first-century lives. They had accepted their lot in life and were grateful. They didn't talk about their problems, much less those involving sex, relationships, or their children. They had raised their families and cared for their husbands dutifully, and could make a pretty mean noodle kugel to boot. They were scholars in coral lipstick, collectively owning the secret to making the perfect matzoh ball. They missed out on sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, and produced the most entitled and indulged generation yet, the Baby Boomers (until their grandchildren came along, of course). No, these women weren't extraordinary, on paper.
To Betsy, they once were the most boring people on the planet, but once she started looking, really looking, at them, that was the farthest thing from the truth. The Bridge Ladies is a group portrait of these women, what they've shared with each other over the past fifty years, but also what they keep to themselves. For them, pain has always been a private matter, and they've each seen plenty of it. And in discovering the secret lives of the Bridge Ladies, Betsy Lerner has found a way to fully understand the rocky path between her and her mother. Wildly perceptive and, in turns, hilarious and fearlessly vulnerable, Lerner's memoir is required reading for anyone who understands what the Bridge Ladies have just begun to teach her: in Betsy's words, Facebook may connect us across the world and throughout history, but it won't deliver a pot roast.
A heart-warming memoir of female friendships, mothers and daughters - and bridge
Through the alchemy of a grand game, Betsy Lerner has woven a universal coming of age story for both mother and daughter. A poignant, humorous and often painful struggle through the pageantry of playing cards; a woman's face on every one. -- Patti Smith, author of Just Kids and M Train This is the best book about mothers and daughters I've read in decades, maybe ever. I just loved it, related to it viscerally, kept calling up my daughters to read passages aloud to them. It's about - in addition to bridge of course - mother-daughter conflict, the desire to love and be loved, aging and loss, discovery and renewal. Betsy Lerner is a beautiful, achingly honest writer, and The Bridge Ladies is at once heartbreaking and hilarious, uplifting and profound -- Amy Chua, Yale Law Professor and author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and The Triple Package The Bridge Ladies reminded me of Tuesdays With Morrie, except that it takes place on Mondays and it has five Morries. In this exquisitely written book, there's humor, candor, no-nonsense wisdom - and portraits of five women whose like we won't see again. I devoured it in one greedy sitting, and started re-reading as soon as I finished. -- Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club Betsy Lerner's ladies--her Rozs and Rhodas, Bettes, Beas and Jackies--are our ladies, our mothers, grandmothers, and aunts. Betsy's ladies survived broken dreams, social change and families who didn't always stop to understand them, but as they cooked, cleaned and helped put the greatness in the greatest generation with their strength and spirit. Betsy Lerner takes us back to their tables, capturing her own complicated relationship with her mom and etching an entertaining portrait of a group of wonderful American women, growing older now and braving new battles, with sweetness, humor and sharp perceptiveness. This is a book with heart and feeling. -- George Hodgman, author of Bettyville The Bridge Ladies is a funny, tender, sometimes sad account that is often painful but always honest. Jewish Chronicle [Betsy's] laughter-filled memoir of rediscovery and reconciliation is a delicious delight. Saga Highly distinctive ... a thoughtful, affectionate study. -- Ysenda Maxtone-Graham Spectator The Golden Girls meets The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants for a game of bridge and a plate of fishballs. I loved this memoir about a mother and daughter putting their differences aside -- Sara Manning Red In the end what we want from our mothers - and what they want from us - is acceptance. "Our mothers have been always trying to fix us, which has given us the message that we're not OK," says Betsy Lerner. Meanwhile, we daughters have been trying to fix them. Betsy's book says, stop trying to fix one another. You're both OK as you are. -- Joanna Moorhead Guardian Heart-warming Sunday Express
Betsy Lerner is the author of The Forest for the Tress and Food and Loathing. She received an MFA from Columbia University in Poetry and was the recipient of a Thomas Wolfe Poetry Prize, an Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, and was one of PEN's Emerging Writers. She also received the Tony Godwin Publishing Prize for Editors Under 35. After working as an editor for 15 years, she became an agent and is currently a partner with Dunow, Carlson and Lerner Literary Agency. She lives in Connecticut.