Gateway Gazette

From My Bookshelf: Betsy Lerner

 By Lynn Willoughby

The Bridge Ladies ~ Betsy Lerner

If you are a bridge player, as I am, this title alone will appeal to you.  It is not great literature, but it does have its own uniqueness.
This is a memoir of a fifty year Bridge game,  The author is brutality honest when describing herself and her rebellion against her mother.  Now, as a mother herself, she is hoping to use the card game she loves, to cross the generations, to get past her own insecurities, her grudges and her downright nastiness.
Unexpectedly living back in the neighbourhood of her childhood home, Betsy knows she cannot keep avoiding her mother, Roz.  In fact, after Roz has surgery, Betsy moves in to nurse Roz back to health.  There are fireworks, there is tongue-biting civility, there are the Bridge ladies who have been playing every Monday for over fifty years.  “…she (Betsy) saw something her generation lacked.  Facebook was great, but it didn’t deliver a pot roast.”
Lerner is always probing the Bridge ladies in an effort of understand their generation, and most especially to understand her mother.  Betsy can’t believe they never hug, they never talk about motherhood, aging or death.  She discovers, however, that her mother suffered from depression, which may explain her own spiral into darkness.
This is not the usual mother-daughter coming of age novel (see The Joy Luck Club).  It is a never-ending struggle, it is painful and there are long silences.  Lerner seems to be a very judgmental narrator and I would have liked more adult to adult conversation.
Can taking Bridge lessons help Betsy to break through the barriers?  If you are a bridge player you will be laughing over Betsy’s lessons at the Manhatten Bridge Club.  There is a fair bit of the complexities of Bridge in the lessons, but they are also a metaphor for the lives of Betsy and Roz.  This is a story of how all the Bridge ladies play the hand they have been dealt in life.
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