Saturday, March 26, 2011

Book Review: We Are All Welcome Here, by Elizabeth Berg

We are all Welcome Here is the first Elizabeth Berg novel I have read. I actually listened to the audio book, which was read by the author, and enjoyed it very much.

Paige Dunn contracted polio at the age of 22, when she was pregnant, and her daughter, Diana was born while Paige was in an iron lung. Paige is determined to keep her daughter, even though her husband has abandoned her. Paige hires a nanny, Peacie, for her daughter, who takes care of her for the three years she is confined, and then (as Paige is paralyzed from the neck down) takes care of Paige and Diana after Paige is able to come home.

At the beginning of the story it’s 1964 and Diana, our narrator, is 13 years old. She is a typical teenage girl, except for her mother’s condition, and trying to survive a summer in Tupelo, Mississippi. Paige is an exceptional woman, who refuses to let her disability define who she is. She’s amazingly upbeat and realistic about her situation, and tries very hard to be a good mother to Paige.

The story is not very long, and not a lot happens. There are problems with the social worker, because Diana is caring for Paige by herself over night, which must be kept from the authorities. We are in the heat of the civil rights movement, and LaRue, Peacie’s husband gets involved, and ends up in trouble. And, Elvis Presley is from this area, so Diana is a big fan. This isn’t to say that the story didn’t keep my interest. The characters are well defined and fascinating. The book is based on a true story, but I’m sure the fairy-tale ending is probably not part of the truth. We are left with a very happy ending. The ending happens so fast, I kind of felt cheated. Like, I listened to the whole thing and now you are going to tell me in 30 seconds that this wonderful thing happened and they all lived happily ever after?

Elizabeth Berg is an absolutely wonderful narrator. The voices were distinctive and authentic.  The southern accents, the “old lady,” and the African American dialect were done very well and added much to the story, for me.

This is an adult novel, but there may be some mature teens that would enjoy this story. It’s an accurate depiction of the early 1960s, and of the devastating consequences of polio.

Published by Random House, 2006
Audiobook obtained from the library
208 pages

Rating: 3/5

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