The Bridge Ladies: A Memoir, by Betsy Lerner. When Lerner comes home to assist her elderly mother after surgery, she starts to see her in a new light—a light cast by her mother’s 50-year luncheon bridge group. To a rebellious, pot-smoking, consciously cool teen of the seventies, her mother always seemed cold and critical. Lerner withdrew, and even as adults their relationship was tense. “Every comment she made felt like a referendum on how I lived my life,” says the author. When her mother asked why she didn’t buy fat-free cottage cheese instead of low-fat, “it nearly set off a world war between us.”
Through observation, interviews, and playing bridge with her mother’s friends, she came to realize that her mother’s tight-lipped persona was due more to a generational norm than emotional distancing. Whereas Lerner and friends spilled their guts to everyone over everything, these women of the Eisenhower era had a “don’t ask, don’t tell” culture. They didn’t grouse about husbands and children, they didn’t complain about their ailments, and they didn’t gossip about their mutual acquaintances. To them the Bridge group was not a therapy session. In addition to their stoicism, Lerner came to appreciate their face-to-face interaction. Facebook is great, she concluded, “but it doesn’t deliver a pot roast.” Funny, relatable, insightful, and ultimately very moving, The Bridge Ladies demonstrates that it’s never too late to forge a meaningful mother-daughter bond. While playing at an outside bridge club two years after first sitting in, the author wins a hand. “I head home a few inches off the ground. And then I proudly call my mother.”
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