The Bridge Ladies

A Memoir

Betsy Lerner

Book

A fifty-year-old Bridge club provides an unexpected connection across a generational divide between mother and daughter. Betsy Lerner tells a funny, intimate, and deeply affecting story 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, Lerner, an enthusiastic member of the Sex, Drugs, and Rock ’n’ Roll generation, found herself back home in her suburban Connecticut town. It represented everything she had wanted to flee: namely the traditional life her mother stood for. Yet when Roz needed help after surgery, Betsy stepped in. She expected a week of tense civility; what she got were the Bridge Ladies. Impressed by their faithful visits and home-cooked meals, she saw something her own generation lacked: Facebook was great, but it wouldn’t deliver a pot roast.

Tentatively at first, Betsy became a regular fixture at her mother’s Monday Bridge club. Before long, she braved the intimidating world of Bridge—a game, she writes, “that well acquaints you with your deficits”—and fell under its spell. Unexpectedly, the Bridge Ladies became a Greek chorus, a catalyst for change between Betsy and Roz as they reconciled years of painful misunderstandings and harrowing silences. The Bridge table became the common ground they never had.

Darkly funny and deeply moving, The Bridge Ladies weaves the histories of the ladies with those of Betsy and her mother across a lifetime of missed opportunities. The result is an unforgettable story of a hard-won—but never-too-late—bond between mother and daughter.

Advance Praise for The Bridge Ladies

“Through the alchemy of a grand game, Betsy Lerner has woven a universal coming-of-age story for both mother and daughter. A poignant, humorous, and often painful struggle through the pageantry of playing cards; a woman’s face on every one.”—Patti Smith, author of Just Kids and M Train

“Betsy Lerner’s ladies are our ladies, our mothers, grandmothers, and aunts. Lerner takes us back to their tables, capturing a group of wonderful American women—growing older now and braving new battles—with sweetness, humor, and sharp perceptiveness. This is a book with heart and feeling.”—George Hodgman, author of Bettyville

“Lerner takes us on a journey of understanding: the card game, the women who play it, their lives and relationships. In Lerner’s beautifully observed account, Bridge becomes both a literal and figurative pathway to repairing an even more precious bond: her own relationship to her mother.”—Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don’t Understand and You’re Wearing THAT?

The Bridge Ladies reminded me of Tuesdays with Morrie, except it takes place on Mondays and it has five Morries. In this exquisitely written book, there’s humor, candor, no-nonsense wisdom—and portraits of five women whose like we won’t see again. I devoured it in one greedy sitting, and started rereading as soon as I’d finished.”—Will Schwalbe, author of The End of Your Life Book Club

“This is the best book about mothers and daughters I’ve read in decades, maybe ever. It’s about mother-daughter conflict, the desire to love and be loved, aging and loss, discovery and renewal. Betsy Lerner is a beautiful, achingly honest writer, and The Bridge Ladies is at once heartbreaking and hilarious, uplifting and profound.”—Amy Chua, author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and The Triple Package

Author

Betsy Lerner

Betsy Lerner

Betsy Lerner is the author of The Forest for the Trees and Food and Loathing. She is a recipient of the Thomas Wolfe Poetry Prize, an Academy of American Poets Poetry Prize, and the Tony Godwin Prize for Editors, and was selected as one of PEN’s Emerging Writers. Lerner is a partner with the literary agency Dunow, Carlson & Lerner and resides in New Haven, Connecticut.

Reviews

“A heartfelt and affecting memoir.” Washington Post

“Through the alchemy of a grand game, Betsy Lerner has woven a universal coming-of-age story for both mother and daughter. A poignant, humorous and often painful struggle through the pageantry of playing cards; a woman’s face on every one.” —Patti Smith, author of Just Kids and M Train

“This is the best book about mothers and daughters I’ve read in decades, maybe ever. It’s about mother-daughter conflict, the desire to love and be loved, aging and loss, discovery and renewal. Betsy Lerner is a beautiful, achingly honest writer, and The Bridge Ladies is at once heartbreaking and hilarious.” —Amy Chua, Yale Law Professor and author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother and The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America

The Bridge Ladies is an uplifting account of a baby boomer’s attempt to understand her mother’s generation. Lerner never lets herself off the hook, either, and the result is candid, fresh and enlightening.” Providence Journal

“A searching, funny, warm memoir.” O, the Oprah Magazine

“In her absorbing memoir, Lerner probes marriage, career, motherhood, depression, aging, death, religion and sex, discovering that, although the Bridge Ladies’ generation differs from hers, they share common values of love and kinship. This beautifully written, bittersweet story of ladies of a certain age and era will have wide appeal.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The Bridge Ladies reminded me of Tuesdays with Morrie, except it takes place on Mondays and has five Morries. Exquisitely written, in this book are portraits of five women whose like we won’t see again. I devoured it in one greedy sitting, and started re-reading as soon as I finished.” —Will Schwalbe, author of the New York Times bestseller The End of Your Life Book Club

“A book for two generations.” Dallas Morning News

“A deeply affecting memoir...a generous and honest examination, she honors these women’s lives” Boston Globe

“A smart and colorful memoir.” —Maureen Corrigan, NPR’s Fresh Air

“Lerner takes us on a journey of understanding: the card game, the women who play it, their lives and relationships. In Lerner’s beautifully observed account, Bridge becomes both a literal and figurative pathway to repairing an even more precious bond: her own relationship to her mother.” —Deborah Tannen, author of You Just Don’t Understand and You’re Wearing THAT?

“Betsy Lerner’s ladies are our ladies, our mothers, grandmothers, and aunts. Lerner takes us back to their tables, capturing a group of wonderful American women—growing older now and braving new battles—with sweetness, humor and sharp perceptiveness. This is a book with heart and feeling.” —George Hodgman, author of Bettyville

“Lerner’s memoir makes a case for spending time together under the rules of neutrality imposed by a game, and approach to living that refrains from over-sharing and outward complaining to concentrate on the task at hand. The bridge ladies are there for one another, even as they keep their feelings to themselves and play on.” New York Times Book Review

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