Elizabeth Berg is noted for not letting readers down. She has lived up to her image in Never Change! In this novel, a story written in 2001, in which Berg draws from her former occupation as a nurse and projects some of that experience onto the main character of Myra Lipinski.
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The real genius of Berg is to capture the hearts of the readers by engrossing them into the lives of the characters at such a level, there is a personal relationship with her characters. Berg, once again is able to achieve this level of character development in Never Change, and this book contains a real solid hook right from the start.
Myra Lipinski has been a loner all her life - one who admits that she would be the one to sell tickets to the prom rather than attend. Early in her life and as an only child of a rather dysfunctional marriage, she decides to become a nurse because she knows it will be a means for people to care about her.
As the story opens, she is 51, lives alone in her small home with her dog Frank. Here, Berg weaves her magic as she begins to create a colorful array of characters with Myra's clients- as a visiting nurse in Boston, caring for an diverse group of all lonely, colorful, grateful, but needy and sometimes eccenctric people that includes the always feuding Schwartz's, the colorful and confrontive DeWitt Washington, the delightful and most generous Marvelous, the very wealthy Mrs. Peters, and the young teenage mother Grace.
Each of these adds a dimension to this novel that carries a touch of humanism and a person that could be any one of us, at any point in our lives, only adding to the story that already brings a huge heart and much love to the table.
Prior to becoming a visiting nurse, Myra spends her career in the ICU and decides the days and weeks drift away without pause and nothing but a blur remains. Her gift to the world is to connect with the array of characters she administers to and connects with in a loving and caring way.
Walking out of her job and taking the Visiting Nurse position gives her the kind of courage that we all want to experience sometime in our adult lives. From this point on, whether you like her or not, you decide this woman has courage of conviction. And, Myra grows on your from there.
Somewhere in this, Berg decides to give Myra a break by allowing God to shine his face upon her and at the tender age of 51, she begins to find love for the first time.
Resigned to life as a single woman, Myra is wildly surprised when her agency assigns her to care for a former high school crush, Chip Reardon, who returns home to his parents with terminal brain cancer.
In high school, Chip was the athletic and popular type, who is sought out as king of his high school, and who hardly ever acknowledged Myra. Secretly, she has sighed about him from afar as a youngster.
As they come back together, Chip and Myra begin to develop a friendship based on a loneliness they see in one another and also in the dependency that Chip begins to develop as his treatment for his cancer progresses.
The story brings in a bittersweet involvement of Chip's former girlfriend - former prom queen Diann- now powerful Boston lawyer- who always looks and acts perfectly. She and Chip have a short interlude at the request of Myra- much to her chagrin. Eventually Chip moves into Myra's house, where their budding friendship takes a romantic twist and things progress from there.
The story unfolds as Chip outwardly begins his plan to die -a decision that only Myra can support, even though his parents seem to fight him on his inability to not aggressively want to take other measures.
Chip and Myra develop a loving and caring relation for one another and each responds to a well of loneliness for the other.
On the brink of death, Chip helps Myra to realize that her isolation is self-induced. In insightful moments, they acknowledge that they have both shielded themselves from human closeness, but in the end found each other.
This is an inspiring, disentanglement which allows the reader some insightful reflection of how we connect or choose not to with the world.
Chip's inevitable death forces Myra to move forward and see the world as a different place. and serves as a constant reminder of Chip's days with her.
This book was another gift to the world from Elizabeth Berg.