Dream When You're Feeling Blue
Elizabeth Berg

Random House
Hardcover/276 pages
ISBN: 978-1-4000-6510-3
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"The pacing of the story is often too slow as it deals with family issues that seem superfluous."

Elizabeth Berg has been quoted as a writer with “rare insight about hard-won wisdom.” Her latest book, Dream When You’re Feeling Blue, lives up to Berg’s reputation. The 276-page book explores the theme that family is everything and that no sacrifice for family is too much.

The story is told through the eyes of the Kitty, one of the three “Dreamy” Heaney sisters. Louise is engaged to Michael fighting in Europe. Kitty is “almost” engaged to Julian in the Pacific, and Tish is a one-girl USO writing to any soldier who is lonely.

Predictably, a few months after Michael returns for his mother’s funeral Louise realizes that she is pregnant and the family rallies round her in support. Michael is thrilled. The baby is born healthy and named for his father, Michael Francis O’Connor.

In the meantime Kitty has met another soldier named Hank Cunningham with whom she shares more in common than with Julian and they begin developing a strong relationship through the mails. She has also gotten a job in a defense plant and is making money that helps out with the family expenses. She is feeling her independence for the first time.

As the war winds down Hank comes home and he and Kitty begin to plan their future together. Things are fine until Louise receives the telegram that says Michael is dead and she is left with a baby without a father. It is then that Kitty makes a sacrifice for family.

Unfortunately, the book loses steam along the way. Michael’s death isn’t a surprise. And, given the set-up, Kitty and Julian drifting apart was easily expected. Kitty’s actions at the end added up to a disappointing read–especially when sixty years later Hank tells Kitty that she was the only woman he had ever loved. Kitty, a single career woman who has traveled the world, returns the feeling, but lies about it for more than sixty years so that her sister could have the life she wanted. It’s a lie that stretches the story’s believability, and leaves us emotionally bereft.

The majority of the story takes place over the span of about two years—1943 to 1945 with a jump to Valentine’s Day 1946 for the Louise’s wedding with another jump to 2006 for the Heaney sister’s high school reunion. The pacing of the story is often too slow as it deals with family issues that seem superfluous.

Much of the story is told through dialogue. There are also Kitty’s internal thoughts as she grows from a selfish girl into a woman willing to give up her dream to her sister, Louise, for her and her son’s future and protection.

This book, like many being written today, seems to subscribe to the unwritten rule that books, other than romances, can’t have happy endings. Love is meaningless and not able to “conquer all.”

On the whole, this reviewer found the experience dissatisfying.

Reviewer: Denise Lowe