Bernice Runs Away by Talya Tate Boerner
Rosepoint Rating: Five Stars
Have you ever dreamed of running away?
Life hasn’t always been easy for Bernice, but she is reasonably content at the ripe age of eighty-one. She has raised two children, buried both her husband and son, and is doing okay despite a few minor health issues. When Bernice’s daughter, Sarah, insists the time has come for Bernice to forfeit her independence and move into her backyard carriage house, Bernice refuses.
“I have a perfectly good house in Arkansas. Why on earth would I move to Atlanta?”
Despite Bernice’s protestations, Sarah moves forward with death cleaning and estate sale planning as though Bernice has no say in the matter.
Bernice has plenty to say about a variety of things.
With Miss Fiona packed stem to stern with only those things that spark joy (thank you, Marie Kondo) and inspired by an old black-and-white photograph of her first true love, Bernice leaves her cozy home in Savage Crossing without a glance in the rearview mirror. And without a word to her family.
Once Bernice decides to run away, there is no telling what might happen next.
A charming story of second chances and the transcendent power of love, Bernice Runs Away clears away life’s clutter and gets to the truth of what is essential in life.
The cover is cute, eye-catching, and compelling. But don’t let it fool you–this is prose-perfect literary fiction. If the cover didn’t get you, this beautiful narrative of Bernice will. Don’t worry about the age thing—this is an easily identifiable theme of family, relationships, and an inspirational story that is trans-generational.
Bernice’s daughter Sarah, worried about her mother aging in Savage Crossing alone in her old stone cottage, has gifted her with a book on “death cleaning” and if that is not enough, announced plans to move Bernice to the backyard bungalow in Atlanta being built for her—so she can be close.
Bernice, like any independent adult rebels and begins plotting her escape. In the head of this octogenarian, the reader follows Bernice as she goes about her business dutifully clearing and cleaning (keeping only those things that “spark joy”), no way will she move to Atlanta. Her heart is in this home where she spent decades with her husband, now gone. She’s had a succession of cats, the current kitty being Dolly Parton—not as gregarious as her namesake—but still, she’s there.
What a poignant story, at times light-hearted or scary, riding with Bernice as she makes her way to Lake Norfolk, a special place in her heart, so many good memories! The little cabin that she booked with Jason, the owner of Cooper’s Bluff is perfect and the book becomes atmospheric with her efforts to prevail, do-overs and make-overs (old Bernice, new Bernice). Bernice is old school, old morality, and she is immensely empathetic. You can’t help but love her or the others in this character-driven novel.
As Bernice shares her memories and desires for tomorrow, the reader gleans that while age does not change desires of the heart and mind, some can be resolved.
So many quotables, including this, one of my favorites:
“Inhale. Exhale. Inhale bewilderment. Exhale disillusionment.”
Told in an easy pace (not to be confused with slow—as this is always engaging), the author has a wise sense of the decade, paints a casual kaleidoscope of visions as the story unfolds to a pleasing, satisfying conclusion. A lovely tale of adventure from a storyteller I’ll revisit with enthusiastic expectations.
I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author and publisher through @NetGalley that in no way influenced this review. These are my honest thoughts.
Genre: Women’s Literary Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, Women’s Friendship Fiction
Publisher: One Mississippi Press LLC
Print Length: 403 pages
Publication Date: October 1, 2022
Source: Publisher and NetGalley
Title Link: Bernice Runs Away [Amazon]
The Author: Here are a few things about what makes me tick, and why we should be friends. I’m not afraid to drink from a regular garden hose or eat raw cookie dough. Unless I’m buying books or plants, I don’t like to shop. I love freshly ground coffee and logo t-shirts. I know how to make mud pies and snow cream and play dough from scratch. Yes, I’m a farmer’s daughter who really was raised in a barn.
I love interesting writing, some poetry, old movies, and hardback novels, especially southern classics. I have a degree in economics from Baylor University, and once upon a time worked for the previous owner of the Dallas Cowboys. My two grown children are the best people I know. I hope to be like them someday.
Clutter and incessant chatter make me crazy. I’m an extroverted introvert and need my quiet time. I’m inspired by music and nature. I have a butterfly garden in the backyard; milkweed is my favorite plant. I am an Arkansas Master Gardener and an Arkansas Master Naturalist.
I believe most any meal can be improved with a side of collard greens.
I live in Fayetteville, Arkansas with my husband and two schnauzers, Lucy and Annabelle (who rule the house). I think the Ozark Mountains are as gorgeous as any place on Earth.
Follow Talya at Grace, Grits and Gardening.
©2022 V Williams