Cover image for Until the real thing comes along
Until the real thing comes along
Berg, Elizabeth.
Personal Author:
[Large print edition].
Publication Information:
Rockland, MA : Wheeler Pub., [1999]

Physical Description:
231 pages ; 24 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
City of Tonawanda Library X Adult Large Print - Floating collection Floating Collection - Large Print

On Order



"Sparkling and witty ..." - Publishers Weekly. What do you do when your life isn't living up to your dreams? When the man you love is unavailable, and yet you long for a family, a home? What is the cost of compromising until the real thing comes along? Patty Ann Murphy says she's "Ms. Runner-Up" in life. She longs to be married and have a family, but is irresistibly drawn to the wrong man. Patty's frustration leads her to feelings she doesn't admire - jealousy of her beautiful friend Elaine, for instance. Patty longs more and more for the consolation of loving and being loved - until she can wait no more.

Author Notes

Elizabeth Berg was born December 2, 1948 and educated at the University of Minnesota and at St. Mary's College.

Elizabeth Berg's first novel was "Durable Goods". "Talk Before Sleep" was a 1996 Abby Honor Book & a "New York Times" bestseller. "Range of Motion", "The Pull of the Moon", & "Joy School" were all critically acclaimed bestsellers. In 1996, she won the New England Booksellers Award for body of work. In 1997, she won the NEBA Award in fiction, and in 2000 became the author of an Oprah Book Club selection. Her book, The Dream Lover, is a New York Times 2015 bestseller.

(Bowker Author Biography) Elizabeth Berg's first novel was "Durable Goods". "Talk Before Sleep" was a 1996 Abby Honor Book & a "New York Times" bestseller. "Range of Motion", "The Pull of the Moon", & "Joy School" were all critically acclaimed bestsellers. In 1996, she won the New England Booksellers Award for body of work. In 1997, she won the NEBA Award in fiction, and in 2000 became the author of an Oprah Book Club selection. She lives in Chicago.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Even as she moves inexorably through her thirties, Patty Hansen is loath to give up her childhood dream of having a big house, a husband, and several children. She had always planned on marrying Ethan Gaines, whom she'd loved since they met in the sixth grade. Once the two were even engaged, but Ethan broke their engagement by announcing he was gay. Ethan and Patty are still best friends, and Patty harbors the increasingly unlikely hope that Ethan will change his mind about his sexual orientation and come back to her. But when the alarm on her biological clock starts going off, Patty decides to forget about a husband and concentrate on having a baby--with Ethan. Lacking any of the emotional depth and honesty of Berg's Talk before Sleep (1994), this is far from being her best novel. However, her many fans may enjoy her particular take on the now familiar girl-loves-gay-guy plot, even though it was done much better in Stephen McCauley's The Object of My Affection (1987). --Nancy Pearl

Publisher's Weekly Review

Leave it to Berg (What We Keep) to put a quirky, melancholic spin on the familiar story of an ordinary woman's quest for marriage and children. Sparkling and witty, this novel stars self-conscious dreamer Patty Murphy, a single, 36-year-old Massachusetts realtor who seesaws from hope to despair between blind dates and manicure appointments. She worries about the ticking of her biological clockÄand how to "keep her eggs healthy"Äand although "it's been a long time since I've been kissed by anyone but family members," she tries to stay optimistic. The biggest barrier between Patty and her version of happily-ever-after is that Ethan, the man she's in love with, is not only her ex-fianc‚e and lifelong best friend, but also gay. Ethan wants children, too, and eventually Patty talks him into having a baby with her. But will Patty, who's still desperate for Ethan's true love, be satisfied with what amounts to a compromise solution? Berg is facile in transforming familiar elements into apt metaphors, and her smooth transitions between tragedies and joys are punctuated with lively humor. Real life intrudes as background to Patty's dreams: Ethan struggles with his sexual orientation in the time of AIDS, and Patty copes with her mother's worsening Alzheimer's. In the face of these traumas, Patty's fixation on an idyllic apple-pie vision of domestic serenity can seem somewhat anachronistic, even frustrating, for the reader. Her longing for a different life wreaks emotional havoc for all who love her, especially as she manipulates the affectionate, lonely father-to-be. But even readers who don't empathize with Patty's neurotic but ultimately endearing search for domestic fulfillment will be affected by Berg's poignant and clever tale and her zestful combination of commercial and literary appeal. Agent, Lisa Bankoff for ICM. Major ad/promo; author tour; reading group guide. (July) FYI: Berg won the NEBA award for fiction in 1997. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

The prolific Berg explores familiar territory in this slight novel about the conflict between the failures of dating and the biological clock. Patty Ann Murphy's half-hearted efforts at selling real estate are matched by her search for the perfect man. Not that any date could possibly measure up to her best friend, Ethan. Of course, he is gay, though she hasn't noticed all the clues. Berg successfully uses humor in some sections as Patty finally does become pregnant, but much of the story is overwhelmed with her whining. Ethan is a far more interesting character. There are, however, some touching subplots that deal tenderly with larger issues, and ultimately this is a harmless bit of light listening, with reading by Paula Parker, appropriate for the beach or a long winter's night. Recommended only for larger fiction collections.ÄJoyce Kessel, Villa Maria Coll., Buffalo (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



I used to think that the best thing to do when you had the blues was to soak in a bathtub full of hot water, submerge yourself so that only the top half of your head was in the outer world. You could feel altered and protected. Weightless. You could feel mysterious, like a crocodile, who is bound up with the wisdom of the natural world and does not concern herself with the number of dates she has per month or the biological time clock. You could feel purified by the rising steam. Best of all, you could press a washrag across your chest, and it would feel like the hand of your mother when you were little and suffering from a cold, and she'd lay her flat palm on you to draw the sickness out. The problem with the bathtub method is that you have to keep fooling with the faucet to keep the water temperature right, and that breaks the healing spell. Besides that, as soon as you get out of the tub the solace disappears as quickly as the water, and you are left with only your annoying lobster self, staring blankly into the mirror. These days I believe that museums are the place to go to lose your sorrow. Fine-art museums with high ceilings and severe little boxes mounted on the wall to measure the level of humidity; rooms of furniture displayed so truly the people seem to have just stepped out for a minute; glass cases full of ancient pottery in the muted colors of old earth. There are mummies, wearing the ultimate in long-lasting eyeliner; old canvases that were held between the hands of Vermeer; new canvases with emphatic smears of paint. The cafés have pastry as artful as anything else in the building; gift shops are stocked with jewelry modeled after the kind worn by Renaissance women--the garnet-and-drop-pearl variety. I buy that kind of jewelry, in love with its romantic history and the sight of it against the black velvet. Then I bring it home and never wear it because it looks stupid with everything I have. But it is good to own anyway, for the pleasure of laying it on the bedspread and then sitting beside it, touching it. What I like most about museums is that the efforts of so many people remain so long after they are gone. They made their marks. If you are an artist, you can hope to achieve that. If you are not an artist, you believe that having children is the closest you'll come. Well, that's what I believe. And anyway, I have always preferred the company of children; I just like to be around them. Whenever my large family gets together on holidays, I sit at the kids' card table. It's so much more relaxing, what with the way the dishes are plastic, and manners of any kind optional. So much more interesting, too--no talk about current events, no holding forth by any overweight, overeducated aunt or uncle. There is talk only about things that are astonishing. Facts about the red ant, say, or the elaborate retelling of an unfortunate incident, such as the one where a kid vomited on the teacher's desk. I always thought I'd have five or six children, and I have imagined so many lovely domestic scenes featuring me and my offspring. Here we are outside on a hot summer day, running through the sprinkler. The children wear bright fluorescent bathing suits in pink and green and yellow; I wear cutoffs and a T-shirt. There is fruit salad in the refrigerator. Later, I will let the older kids squirt whipped cream for the younger ones; then, if they pester me enough in the right way, I'll let them squirt it into their mouths--and mine. Or here I am at the grocery store, my married hands unloading graham crackers and packages of American cheese that have already been broken into due to the eager appetite of the toddler in the carriage, who is dressed in tiny OshKosh overalls over a striped shirt. His fine hair, infused with gold and red, curls up slightly at the back of his neck. His swinging feet are chubby and bare; he has flung his sneakers and socks on top of the family-size pack of chicken breasts. His brothers and sisters are in school. Later in the afternoon, he will stand at the living-room window, watching for them to come home, squealing and bending his knees in a little joy dance when he sees them marching down the sidewalk toward him, swinging their lunch boxes in high, bright-colored arcs. I have imagined myself making dinner while my dark-haired daughter sits at the kitchen table. She is making me a picture of a house with window boxes, choosing crayons with slow care. She is wearing yellow turtle barrettes in her hair, and a bracelet she made from string. "Hey, Mommy," she says, "do you want flowers on the ground, too?" Oh yes, I say. Sure. "Me too," she says. We smile. I have imagined a fleshy constellation of small children and me, spread out and napping on my big bed while the newest baby sleeps in her crib. The pulled-down shades lift with the occasional breeze, then slap gently back against the windowsill. If you listen carefully, you can hear the small breathing sounds of the children, their soothing, syncopated rhythms. There is no other sound, not even from the birds; the afternoon is holding its finger to its lips. All the children have blankets and all of them are sucking their thumbs. All of them are read to every night after their baths. All of them think they are the favorite. None of them has ever had an illness of any kind, or ever will. (I mean, as long as I'm imagining.) From the Trade Paperback edition. Excerpted from Until the Real Thing Comes Along by Elizabeth Berg All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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