Lucky Me is that rare book that captures--in the vein of Elinor Lipman and Elizabeth Berg--what it really means to be a modern woman.
Julie Berman seems to have it all: a beautiful home in suburban New Jersey, a loving husband, a budding career as a freelance journalist, and two great kids. To the outside world, her life is perfect--little do they know that behind the facade, Julie is beginning to feel like her world is falling apart.
Among her worries is a nagging fear that she's turning into her mother--just as neurotic, just as crazy, and just as consumed by appearances. Then there's the handsome, charming, and quite single editor at the local newspaper who has definitely taken a liking to her . . . which wouldn't be a problem if he wasn't so tempting. Add to that her moody, monosyllabic teenage son, who may or may not be having sex with a new girlfriend (whom Julie's not sure she approves of, sex or not). But the final blow to her sanity comes in the form of a phone call from her daughter, who informs Julie of her plans to run off with her boyfriend . . . who's also her college professor.
Lucky Me is a journey into the year when everything seems to come to a head in Julie's life--and when she realizes that there are some things you can't control, especially the people you love. Wise, irreverent, tender, and funny, Lucky Me is for every woman who has ever felt--despite her most valiant efforts--less than perfect.
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March 27, 2006
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Excerpt from Lucky Me by Debra Borden
ONE: BACK TO HERSELF IN NO TIME
By the spring of 1956, on Long Island's North Shore, my mother had acquired many things: a husband; two boys, ages nine and thirteen; four bedrooms; one mink coat; a housekeeper and a miniature schnauzer named Pearlie and Bambi respectively; and, despite the palpable salve of these possessions, a dreadful black hole in the center of her soul where her dreams used to be. Perhaps Estelle Berman (nee Esther Levin) was nothing more than a postwar cliche, one more survival-driven daughter of immigrant parents, two parts old-fashioned respectability and a dollop of modern movie glamour, inspired to grab at a life of security tinged with trips to Bermuda rather than one of possible passion and the dreadful results such frivolousness might invoke. Maybe it was the tediousness of too many lunches of nothing more than portioned-out Jujubes, or the shame of so many overheard hysterics; her mother was indignant over the price of day-old bread, fish, and fabric, and perpetually accused the butcher of cheating her; charging her for meat weighed with the bone. Or perhaps it was ultimately the dress, the blue silk dress with layers of sheer cobalt chiffon and delicate smocking across the chest; the dress we would hear about for years, the one that went not to my mother, who stood transfixed in front of Felterman's Dress Shop coveting it for weeks, but to Miriam, my aunt, her baby sister, because Miriam was "fragile." With a sister who had cornered the market on fragility and a mother adept at selective hysteria, Estelle was left with little choice except to embrace practicality. So, in the summer of her nineteenth year, the belle of First Street on Manhattan's Lower East Side, the most popular girl in the apartment complex above the candy store (Ach! It's some boy calling for Esther again!), the featured actress in Singer's summer-stock production of Showboat that August of 1939, and a real "looker," as the fellows used to say, promptly withdrew from the theatrical and social scene, decisively put an end to all whimsy and girlish adventure, to marry my father and literally subdue herself with the pursuit of perfect domesticity. Soon enough she bought her own blue dress, two in fact, and a full closet and an even fuller wallet went a long way. Such items were able to plump her spirit and fill her belly for many months, years even. But there came a time when compromise began to feed on resolve and poison satisfaction, and no doubt resentment was the secret at the root of my mother's unhappiness. Then again, perhaps it wouldn't have mattered. Perhaps laying blame is merely the folly of a daughter fighting to rewrite the truth, a truth that precludes self-determination and marks the women in this filial line for genetic doom.
Whatever the cause, by April of her thirty-sixth year, the surface in her inner blueprint opened and spread like an emotional fault line, creating cracks in the facade that were impossible to ignore. She'd built her inner dream house with a diagram she'd adopted first from the movies, then from studying the uptown goyim, and finally by mimicking her aloof neighbors in tony Great Neck, New York. Now she was scrambling to repair the pretend foundation as it chipped and crumbled. She sobbed in the shower. The moment the warm water ran down her face the tears spilled out. Leaning against the cold tile, she liked the feeling of not knowing where the water stopped and the tears began. Sometimes she cried in the car--not for any particular reason and never in front of the boys, but if it was perhaps a windy day, and the sun caught a pile of leaves in just such a way, well, there was something about the fluttering down that made her think of dreams dying. She didn't understand. She thought she'd done everything right, acquired all the symbols of happiness, from her VKP sticker (the Village of Kings Point was Great Neck's most exclusive) to her summer membership at the Fleetwood pool.