Until the Real Thing Comes Along

Patty Ann Murphy is in love with her high-school sweetheart and best friend, Ethan Gaines, but there’s one problem: he’s gay. Both of them want a child — Patty’s biological clock isn’t ticking, it’s shrieking — a situation not so common when this book was published in 1999, but such is Elizabeth Berg’s magic that not only did she make unconventional choices seem natural at the beginning of the millennium, but it holds up in the age of same-sex marriage and families. The difficult and complex choices of Patty and Ethan seem natural — the initial decision to conceive a baby, then a move to Minneapolis, where Ethan feels he might better simulate heterosexuality, Patty’s everyday irritation with the tumults of pregnancy, and finally, welcoming a child against the backdrop of Patty’s mother’s recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. One life is ushered in as another is slowly but surely escorted out; the smooth ebb and flow of human beings continues, and Berg, as always, renders every moment lyric and wonderful.

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