The Bridge Ladies

A Memoir

Betsy Lerner


After a lifetime of defining herself against her mother, Betsy unexpectedly returns to her childhood home of New Haven. No sooner does she cross state lines than old patterns reemerge, old conflicts flare. Everything her mother says feels like a referendum on her life: her hair, her frayed jeans, throwing away money on Starbucks, and why does she always have to wear black! All the entrenched mother-daughter behaviors return full force. The generation gap seems wider than ever.

Enter the Bridge Ladies, a small band of five women who have been playing cards with her mother, Roz, on Mondays for more than fifty-five years—still clad in matching outfits, heels, their hair done, and still serving luncheon on linen, china, and silver.  After Roz had some surgery, each one visited with a meal. Betsy admired their loyalty. She knew if she ever got sick her friends would probably send her texts: Feel better! Miss you! Facebook was great, but it wouldn’t deliver a pot roast.

Tentatively at first, Betsy joins the Monday bridge group, and eventually learns to play the game that “well acquaints you with your deficits.” Over time, she gets to know the ladies and, most surprisingly, her mother. Bridge becomes a metaphor for crossing the emotional divide. Darkly funny and deeply moving, The Bridge Ladies is an unforgettable story of the hard-won but never-too-late bond that can be rekindled between mothers and daughters.


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.



“Betsy Lerner’s ladies are our ladies. In her book, Lerner takes us back to their tables, capturing her own complicated relationship with her mom and a group of wonderful American women with sweetness, humor and sharp perceptiveness. This is a book with heart and feeling.” —George Hodgman, author of Bettyville

“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)

“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 a pathway-both literal and figurative-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 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

“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. Lerner is an 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

“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