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Once Upon a Time, There Was You: A Novel

Once Upon a Time, There Was You - Elizabeth Berg This is not the usual type of book I read. It is more of a fast page turning novel for a plane flight, a beach day, a vacation, but it is a poignant, even tender tale that covers many of life’s ups and downs, pitfalls and horizons. It is almost a fairy tale, and it is a love story, among other things. To my surprise, it was very well written and much better than I thought it would be, since it is not the type of book I would have picked up to read if I had not won it.
When you get about 80 pages into the paperback, the book begins to tackle some very serious life issues, and it meets the challenge of presenting a very traumatic event which almost made me close the book and put it on a shelf, by dealing expertly with it, implying what had to be implied but not overdoing the ordeal that followed or overloading the story with gory details. The suggestion of what was possibly going to happen was enough to entice the reader to read further without being scared off. It is a very good book for anyone liking the romance genre, and it contains no gratuitous sex.
So many everyday issues that we all could face in marriage, parenting and our day to day life, are discussed in a comfortable, conversational style. I feel certain that anyone reading the book will know someone who can probably identify with some issue these families are dealing with; someone who could be having the same types of conversations with their child or spouse, but hopefully, not someone who will identify with the near tragedy that almost occurred.
The characters are very well developed, even the minor ones, and although sometimes the dialogue seemed a little unnecessary and trite, the reader can easily imagine a situation where it might actually take place. Each particular issue seems to fit in with the telling of the tale at the time it was brought up. At times, though, it felt as if almost too many issues were covered: extramarital sex, unrequited love, homosexuality, divorce, suicide, parenting, rebellion, deception, illness in young and old, lying, and widowhood. Even though she does it well, it was overwhelming, at times.
This book is a love story for the old and young. It is a story about the damage secrets can do and how in some instances they can protect. It is a story about the things that can happen to anyone when they least expect it. It is a story about love gone bad, teenage mistakes and parental “helicoptering”.
One day all is right with the world and the next, there is a life-changing event from out of nowhere. We all develop different coping skills and how we face and handle our problems is a huge message of the book as well as the need to learn to love, to give it and receive it. It is a story that could be dissected and because of all the themes, it would be great for a book club.