The Bridge Ladies, Betsy Lerner: Book Review

bridge ladies betsy lerner book reviewHarper Perennial
The Bridge Ladies Book Cover The Bridge Ladies
Betsy Lerner
Harper Perennial

A fifty-year-old bridge game, and the secrets it held, provides an unexpected way to cross the generational divide between the author and her mother: Betsy Lerner takes us on an intimate and powerfully personal literary journey where we learn a little about bridge and a lot about life.

After a lifetime of defining herself against her mother’s Don’t-Ask-Don’t-Tell generation, Betsy Lerner, a poster child for the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ’n’ Roll generation, finds herself back in her childhood home of New Haven, Connecticut, not five miles from the mother she spent a lifetime avoiding. When Roz needs help after surgery, it falls to Betsy to take care of her. She expected a week of tense civility; what she got instead were the Bridge Ladies. Impressed with their loyalty, she realized her generation was lacking. Facebook was great, but it wouldn’t deliver a pot roast.

Tentatively at first, Betsy becomes a regular fixture at her mother’s Monday Bridge Club. Before long, she braves the intimidating world of Bridge and comes under its spell. But it is through her friendships with the ladies that she is finally able face years of misunderstandings and family tragedy. The Bridge Ladies become a Greek chorus, a catalyst for change between mother and daughter.

By turns darkly funny and deeply moving, The Bridge Ladies brilliantly weaves the stories of the Bridge Ladies, along with those of Betsy and her mother across a lifetime of missed opportunities. The result is an unforgettable and profound journey into a hard-won—but never-too-late—bond between mother and daughter. -Goodreads 

This review includes quotes from the memoir
*Special thanks to Harper Perennial for allowing us to review this publication.

Betsy Lerner‘s memoir is about getting to know her mother and her life in a more intimate manner. Lerner and her mother have not seen eye-to-eye most of her life. She always felt as though her mother was judging her for things like her weight or her hair or her clothes, etc. All Lerner wanted was her mother’s approval, which becomes the premise of this story.

Ever since Lerner was a teenager, she and her mother had different outlooks on life. Her mom wanted a husband that could support her and her children for the rest of her life, while Lerner would rather have a job and have personal fulfillment instead. This was the initial issue that drove them apart. After living in New York for so many years, Lerner’s husband got a job in her native New Haven, Connecticut, so she had to face the music and go back home.

After reacquainting herself with New Haven, Lerner wanted to be more involved in her mother’s life. When her mom had surgery, she had to take care of her for awhile. During that time, she saw all of her mom’s Bridge friends again. When Lerner was growing up, her mom had a Bridge group that would meet up every Monday and she always despised these women because they represented everything she did not want to become: she wanted to find her soulmate, not settle for someone who has a lot of money; she wanted a promising career not to become housewife. To her, all of these women her mother surrounded herself with represented the total opposite of the life Lerner wanted for herself. But little did she know, there was more to these women than meets the eye.

“Sometimes, watching the ladies play Bridge, I can see the girls they once were and the cards they were dealt; it’s all there in their faces as they open a new hand of cards, each ripe with possibility, rife with disappointment.”

— excerpt from Betsy Lerner’s The Bridge Ladies

Out of curiosity, she decides to attend one of her mother’s Bridge games to see what these ladies were truly like, to get some insight on their life experiences, and the choices that led to where and how they are today.

Not only does Lerner get to understand more about the women of the Bridge group, but her mother as well. This introduction allows her to see her mother in a different light for the first time. In fact, they never really grow to know more about one another until 2013, the same year her mom undergoes surgery. Even so, I felt as though this memoir shared a ton of heartfelt moments between these two.

“In discovering the unsung lives of the Bridge Ladies, I also came to better understand the ragged path that connects me to my mother. This is our story, too.”

— excerpt from Betsy Lerner’s The Bridge Ladies

I would recommend this mother-daughter memoir to both mothers and daughters alike. Especially to those who might have distanced themselves from each other for quite some time, and also to those who still have questions about the other.

I gave The Bridge Ladies four stars because of how in-depth Lerner went into each woman’s story. I could honestly imagine myself in the room with them while they gossiped with one another and those are my favorite kinds of books. Lerner’s memoir is affecting and once you’ve started reading it will be difficult to shake away from the stories within it.

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Jessica Duffield
the authorJessica Duffield
Contributing Writer
I am a junior in college. Books are my passion and I hope to work in book publishing once I graduate from journalism school.