Review

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted: And Other Small Acts Of Liberation

by Elizabeth Berg

In this purely enjoyable collection of short stories, women who are (refreshingly) not young, hip or famous take pleasure in mutinies that change their everyday lives, if not the world. Readers are sure to relate to these rebels, thanks to author Elizabeth Berg’s trademark warm descriptions of down-to-earth characters stepping outside their comfort zones.

Several of the collection's tales are diet-related; the characters' attitudes in each will make most of us grin in self-recognition. Leading the way, the title story begins at Dunkin' Donuts after the main character attends a Weight Watchers meeting. Two new members --- an elderly slim woman on oxygen and a slender blind lady --- boggle our heroine, who decides that she will spend a day eating whatever she craves, in honor of these dieters who should not be trying to lose weight.

At Dunkin' Donuts, she starts with coffee, heavy on the cream, plus a huge box of every one of her favorite pastries. Then she sits in her car and inhales as much as she possibly can (which turns out to be about one-third). She’s so full that she must go for a walk in order to make room for lunch. Lunch is a problem because there are too many choices, yet she manages to narrow it down to a diner bacon cheeseburger with the works. After dinner, she destroys her scale but is not quite ready to give up the good fight --- and her story winds down to a rueful, hilarious conclusion.

Many tales reflect the comfortable and comforting friendships women forge over the years. In the warm "Mrs. Ethel Menafee and Mrs. Birdie Stolz," the title characters are two widows who console each other through a difficult time while reflecting on their long friendship. In "Truth or Dare," a group of women challenge one another to initiate lunch dates they're terrified to make, propelling divorcee Laura down a twisty path of lies before she stumbles upon a redemption she doesn't share when her pals relate their own entertaining lunch date stories.

Mature romantic love makes a vibrant theme in many of these tales. In "Returns and Exchanges," Agnes, who weighs 176 pounds and whose socks don't match, has the opportunity to once again meet up with an old love, with unexpected and satisfying results. Although it's difficult to pick a favorite out of such a group of winners, my heart belongs to Rita in the multi-layered "Sin City," who decides to ditch her safe retirement community life to take a gamble while wearing a charm bracelet talisman.

In honor of this book, I spent a day I like to call "The Day I Read Whatever I Wanted," in which I gobbled down THE DAY I ATE WHATEVER I WANTED cover to cover. I recommend my own small act of liberation, and this lovely collection, to female readers everywhere.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon(terryms2001@yahoo.com) on December 29, 2010

The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted: And Other Small Acts Of Liberation
by Elizabeth Berg

  • Publication Date: April 15, 2008
  • Genres: Fiction, Short Stories
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Random House
  • ISBN-10: 1400065097
  • ISBN-13: 9781400065097