The Bridge Ladies

The Bridge Ladies

by Betsy Lerner

Overview: A fifty-year-old Bridge game provides an unexpected way to cross the generational divide between a daughter and her mother. Betsy Lerner takes us on a powerfully personal literary journey, where we learn a little about Bridge and a lot about life.

After a lifetime defining herself in contrast to her motherís ďdonít ask, donít tellĒ generation, Lerner finds herself back in her childhood home, not five miles from the mother she spent decades avoiding. When Roz needs help after surgery, it falls to Betsy to take care of her. She expected a week of tense civility; what she got instead were the Bridge Ladies. Impressed by their loyalty, she saw something her generation lacked. Facebook was great, but it wouldnít deliver a pot roast.

Tentatively at first, Betsy becomes a regular at her motherís Monday Bridge club. Through her friendships with the ladies, she is finally able to face years of misunderstandings and family tragedy, the Bridge table becoming the common ground she and Roz never had. By turns darkly funny and deeply moving, The Bridge Ladies is the unforgettable story of a hard-wonóbut never-too-lateóbond between mother and daughter.

Judy Stanton (11/28/16): I thought of The Bridge Ladies as a book about life -- about relationships with family and friends, coping with loss, celebrating milestones, and the changing role of women in marriage and careers. I identified with it as a mah jong player, and having a mom who played throughout her life. I liked the idea of a daughter interviewing and learning about her mom's bridge friends and seeing them as independent, beautiful and competent women who, in their 80s, were still living on their own and enjoying life. And, yet, she didn't gloss over the challenges of life transitions, giving her mom credit, finally, for her independence after her father's death. And showing the impact of loss on other women in the group, as well as finding late-in-life love. And I also liked the author seeing in herself some of the traits she rebelled against in her mom. I see that with my daughters as well. So, while the book was a bit rambly and the author a bit self centered, I was okay with that on the way to sharing the lives of an admirable group of elderly Jewish women.
Rating: ****

Debbie Weiss (11/15/16): I really don't have much to add over what both Bonnie and Gail have already stated. It seems that Betsy Lerner, the author, was hoping to improve her strained relationship with her mother by becoming a part of her mother's weekly bridge game and by befriending her mother's friends. The premise of the book sounded good and I heard an interview with the author on NPR and I thought that I would really connect with the author. Instead, I didn't find any of the characters particularly interesting and simply found the author to be very self-absorbed. In fact, I found the ready rather tedious.
Rating: **

Bonnie Walkes (10/30/16): I totally agree with Gail. I was told to read this book because I am from New Haven, CT and a Bridge Player so I expected to really relate to the author and subject matter. Well, I didn't. The author/main character is not a likable person and if this is a self therapy book, she needs to go back and get some additional therapy. It's a story of a young woman trying to reconnect to and understand her mother via her mother's bridge group. We meet the ladies within the group and learn of their life stories - all of which were predictable. Betsy also shares with us the angst she had in learning Bridge which were also predictable. (Been there, done that). I understand from several of my Bridge friends that they liked the book, so if you are into Bridge, enjoy what you can. I for one would not recommend it (and as a New Haven native, I was disappointed in her descriptions of the city, since she centered her story around the suburbs, rather than what New Haven is all about). Sour grapes about New Haven - probably, but not sour about the story itself and the writing.
Rating: **

Gail Reid (10/25/16): The Bridge Ladies is another attempt at intergenerational dialog but this time through the medium of a 50-year old bridge game. Betsy Lerner's mother and her other octogenarian friends have been playing bridge every Monday in suburban New Haven for about 50 years. Journalist Lerner wants to crack the code and improve her relationship with her mother by learning bridge and observing their weekly games.

ALthough the interviews with the women are interesting and yield the expected responses about their early lives, their marriages, their child raising and in some cases their current widowhood, there are no real surprises. The author tells us she has had decades of therapy so it is clear that she is ripe for self awareness and expects the same of the bridge group. But, these are women who survived the Depression, World War II and the usual personal pain of a long life. They are not about to come forward with all the answers that the author seeks. And, yet she is surprised about this!

Lerner's chronicles of her efforts to learn bridge as a middle ager are interesting as well as her ability to weave these experiences into her well written story. But overall, I just did not get anything new from this book and found it fairly disappointing.
Rating: ***

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