In Home Safe we find the story of Helen Ames following the sudden death of her husband. Still in mourning a year later, she cannot yet engage in the life she once loved. A novelist, she’s stuck in what appears to be a case of terminal writer’s block. Every attempt to get back to a productive lifestyle backfires, which aggravates her outspoken best friend. Worst of all, Helen can’t resist meddling in her 27-year-old daughter’s life. Then Helen stumbles on an expensive secret of her husband’s. Handling its consequences forces her at last from her isolation. She finds unexpected balm in teaching a writing class, changes how she relates to her daughter, and, in the process, finds hope and healing in the act of letting go.
I stand in awe at Berg’s deft skill. Always, it seems, she understand how to sketch her characters with just the right amount of detail—neither too much nor too little. A character-driven story like this one contains a gently sloping plotline, but it satisfies nonetheless because the people are so carefully imagined. In Home Safe, Berg explores the tricky terrain of mother-daughter relationships with her usual clarity, humor and literary aplomb.
Recommended reading for any daughter who has wondered why her mother is the way she is—and vice versa.