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    A great, tight read with heart

    I received a free electronic copy of this contemporary novel from Netgalley, Elizabeth Berg, and Random House Publishers. Thank you all for sharing your hard work with me. I have read The Confession Club of my own volition, and this review reflects my honest opinion of this work. I urge friends and family to read this book. It will have you laughing, crying, and seeing your own life through a happiness filter. I received an ARC for Elizabeth Berg's 'Talk Before Sleep' in 1993 and fell in love with her prose. And then there was 'Range of Motion'! What heartbreaking tales featuring the warmth and caring of humankind! The 'Confession Club' is another excellent example of this. Elizabeth Berg can play your heartstrings with just a sentence or two. In this latest Berg novel, we have women ranging in age from their thirties to their seventies in this little insular town of Mason, Missouri who years ago started the Third Sunday Supper Club, alternating meetings at members kitchens. Membership was ideally limited to eight as that is all that can be seated at their kitchen tables. As the ladies became more comfortable with one another they began sharing secrets, then meeting more often, and they eventually became the weekly Wednesday Night Confession Club. Because you always feel better when your secrets, recent or in the deep dark past, aren't just yours any longer. And you trust they won't go beyond these club members. The ladies take turns hosting each week, sharing a sin, big or little, after supper and dessert. They discuss thoroughly this sin and share ideas or shared common sins and then end the meeting by everyone saying 'Go in peace'. This also eventually evolved into 'Go in Peach' (thanks to Leah) and was accompanied by this week's confessor wearing home the club forgiveness symbol, a delicate peach scarf. Joanie Benson is a divorcee and 65, the town's recently retired librarian with severe arthritis. She is a 'native' Masonite along with 69-year-old Gretchen Buckwalter, owner of the local grocery store. Rosemary Doleman is 58, more 'glamorous' than the others, the wife of the local Chevrolet dealer who is a bit spoiled and is turning 60 in 18 months. She has to get used to saying 'almost sixty', and it will take time. Dodie Hicks is 'north of seventy', though she won't say how far north, dyes her hair deep black and wears alarming makeup. Anne McCrae is 74 and she and Leah Short live in the local retirement home. Leah is their senior member at 77. Toots Stout is 47 and the newly elected president of the town council. She does her best to keep order among club members whether they like it, or not. Karen Lungren, 35, is the minister's wife and the youngest member of the Confession Club. She often has to remind the ladies that her husband is the pastor - she is just the wife and not necessarily bound by the same rules. Together, these ladies are hilarious and very, very touching. They offer each other joy and forgiveness and lots of humor and goodwill - but change is in the wind. Will it be the same when Anne and Leah move to a retirement home in sunny Arizona next month? Iris Winters is a relative newcomer to Mason, a Boston transplant pushing 50, also divorced, who teaches a baking class for local women in the kitchen of her rented home once a week. Club member Joanie is a student of Iris' weekly baking class and gets Iris involved with the club when Joanie needs a Black Cake (Thank you, 'The Belle of Amherst' and Emily Dickinson) as promised for her turn hosting the club meeting -but winds up not having time to bake the complicated cake and the already baking stew for their supper as well. Raised by her father after her mother's death when she was a baby, Maddy Harris is in her twenties and previously a resident of Mason but now a New York professional photographer and has inherited the house Iris is renting. Maddy along with her seven-year-old daughter Nola is visiting Iris, perhaps for the summer, but with the thought of returning to Mason to live. Maddy accompanies Iris as she delivers the famous Black Cake dessert to the meeting already in progress, and is recognized and welcomed by the older members. within minutes, Maddy is opening up to these ladies, the only mother figures she had as a child, anxious to see if they can help her with her complicated relationship with her much-loved husband Matthew, left behind in New York. Then we have John Loney, a Vietnam vet needing to be homeless who, while hitchhiking cross country from Chicago to California, spies a deserted farmhouse set back off the road in the Missouri woods that speaks to him. He has the trucker providing his latest ride let him off and with his small backpack virtually moves into the old abandoned farm for a spell, planning to move on in a few days. Or maybe weeks. Or, you know, when his newly planted tomatoes ripen. And then he meets Iris.
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    I love the Mason series!

    In the third of Elizabeth Berg’s Mason series, female friends meet to eat, drink and discuss past mistakes, indiscretions and other secrets that they have never divulged to others. At the end of this confession, the women provide the confessor with non-judgmental acceptance and absolution. We see the return of many of our favourite characters introduced in the first two books in the series including Maddie who returns to Mason after living in New York. We also see the introduction of new characters including John, a Vietnam vet suffering from PTSD and homeless, who walks into Mason and makes a home out of a dilapidated building. This character is beautifully written and brings to the forefront the importance of not judging others, especially without knowing their story. This book is absolutely lovely and a joy to read. It speaks of friendship, kindness, acceptance and community - we need more of these values in our world. Thank you to Netgalley and Random House for the ARC of this book in exchange for the honest review provided here.

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