Ellen, he thought, and the name seemed to him to hold everything he might possibly want to say to her....He looked at her lying on her side of the bed, looked too at the space she had left beside her. That was his side, because he was her husband. And she was his wife."
Griffin is a happy man. Settled comfortably in a Chicago suburb, he adores his eight-year-old daughter, Zoe, and his wife, Ellen -- shy, bookish Ellen, who is as dependable as she is dependent on him for his stability and his talent for gently controlling the world they inhabit. But when he wakes one morning to hear of his wife's love affair with another man and her request for a divorce, Griffin's view of life is irrevocably altered. Overnight he goes from being Ellen's husband to being her roommate, from a lover to a man denied passion and companionship. Now he must either move on or fight for his marriage, forgive his wife or condemn her for her betrayal, deny or face up to his part in the sudden undoing of his seemingly perfect life.
From the New York Times bestselling author of Open House and True to Form comes a brilliant novel that charts the days and nights of a family whose normalcy has been shattered. With startling clarity and a trademark blend of humor and poignancy, Say When follows a man on an emotional journey to redefine his notions about love and happiness and asks questions relevant to any contemporary couple: when is a relationship worth saving and when is it better to let it go? Might a man and a woman define betrayal differently? How honest are we with those to whom we are ostensibly closest?
Searingly honest, Say When is an engaging and memorable story that takes readers into the heart of a modern marriage, where intimacy and love, denial and pain, so often collide.
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July 24, 2003
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Excerpt from Say When by Elizabeth Berg
Of course he knew she was seeing someone. He knew who it was, too. Six months ago, saying she needed a new direction in her life, saying she was tired of feeling helpless around anything mechanical, that she had no idea how to even change a tire, Ellen had taken a course in basic auto mechanics -- "Know Your Car," it was called. She'd come back the first night saying it was amazing, she'd had the admittedly elitist idea that mechanics were illiterate, but this one was so well-spoken, and he'd walked into the classroom carrying a pile of books he'd just bought -- hardback! Mostly new fiction, she'd said. But also Balzac, because he'd never read him.
"How do you know " Griffin had asked.
"Know what "
"How do you know he's never read Balzac "
"Because he told me. I had a question after class and then we just started talking...."
"What was your question "
She stared at him, a tight smile on her face. Then she said, "My question was about the battery."
"But what about it "
She looked down, embarrassed. "I wanted to know how you clean it. Okay "
"Why didn't you ask me "
"No. Why didn't you ask me I could have told you."
"Because," she said, slowly and deliberately, "it never came up between us. It came up because I am taking a class about cars. And I had a question for the teacher. Jesus, Griffin. What is this "
"Nothing," he'd said. "Forget it."