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Elizabeth Berg makes promises she cannot keep

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Elizabeth Berg is one of my favorite contemporary authors. In fact, her third novel, “Talk Before Sleep,” is on my “top twenty best books” list. Since “Talk,” Berg has published 18 quality stories. She’s quite delightful and painfully honest, as I found out during our 2009 interview, which can be found at www.mySSnews.com.
On the jacket of her 19th release, “The Last Time I Saw You,” Berg promises a “wonderful new novel about the women and men reconnecting with one another – and themselves – at their 40th high school reunion.” 
Berg might promise, but this time, she does not deliver.
Known for her ability to draw complex, interesting characters who pull a reader into the story, Berg seems to have lost her way here. There’s not one person in this book who really matters.
There’s self-centered, divorced Dorothy Shauman Ledbetter, whose goal is to sleep with a boy who ignored her over 30 years ago.
You have sex-obsessed Peter Decker, who’s acting out every adolescent boy’s wildest fantasies. He is one hot mess.
Then, there’s Lester Hessenfreffer, whose wife and unborn child died in a car accident. Lester has buried his grief in his veterinarian practice.
You have incredibly beautiful Candy Sullivan Armstrong, who has everything money can buy, except one.
And then there’s Mary Alice Mayhew, who has moved back to her parents’ vacant house and looks after her 92-year old neighbor, Einer Olson. Mary Alice and Einer are really the only complex characters in the book.
Early on, Berg tells readers this class reunion will be the last one for the graduates of Clear Springs High, but she never explains why there will not be a 50th.
A good book should make you like the characters, want to know more about them and want to follow their journey.
“The Last Time I Saw You” does none of those things. I finished it only because I was reviewing it. Had it been a library book, I would have stopped at the beginning of Chapter 4, when Berg wrote, “Peter Decker had just cheated on his mistress with his wife, Nora.”



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