Mameve Medwed
How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life

  • 2006
  • Thorndike Press
  • ISBN: 0060831197


  • Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, iBook


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How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life

  • A National Bestseller
  • An IndieNext (BookSense) Top 20 pick
  • A selection of the Literary Guild Book Club
  • A selection of the Quality Paperback Book Club
  • A selection of the Insight/Out Book Club

Everything changes for Abby Randolph when she goes on Antiques Roadshow. She arrives at the crack of dawn carting a chamber pot left to her by her mother. She leaves cradling a valuable antique that once did service under the bed of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Suddenly her life is turned upside down.

She's slapped with a lawsuit for possession of the chamber pot by her ex-best friend, the daughter of her mother's (female) lover. She's wooed by a reporter who may or may not be honorable. She's hounded by her past and the men she's determined to keep in the past. Reeling from such seismic shifts, Abby embarks on an exhilarating, laugh-out-loud-funny journey of the self, of disputes legal and romantic, of friendships lost and found, and of love and sex both spurned and welcomed.

Who could imagine that the lessons Abby learns from a pedigreed chamber pot might prove more valuable than those taught in lofty Harvard lecture halls?

Praise for How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life

"How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life deserved to be the success it was." New York Times Book Review

"Cambridge, Mass.—king of America's academic cities—is ripe for satire:its obsession with Harvard, its European-like insistence on established families, its hyper-liberal politics. And Mameve Medwed, a longtime Cantabrigian, is up to the task.... Beyond the funny, gentle ribbing of Cantabrigians and their ways, both Abby and her chamber pot find some resolution. If you ever went to Harvard, hung out in Harvard Square hoping to run into some cute single person, or just grew up in the shadow of an academic superstar, you'll likely look fondly on Medwed's Cambridge tale." Washington Post

"This is a novel as delicious as its title...don't be deceived by Medwed's light touch and irrepressible sense of humor. Here is a canny writer with a distinctive voice...a charming wry romp [with a] more profound problem that lingers, compelling us to confront our own bonds with our diverse objects of desire." The Boston Globe

"The reader roots for Abby as she faces her weaknesses and ultimately comes out ahead. At times, Abby addresses the audience as a trusted friend, which allows the story to come across as charming and funny without being precious. Abby is a thoroughly believable character, with flaws and strengths that many readers will recognize. Highly recommended for all public libraries." Anastasia Diamond, Cleveland Public Library, for Library Journal (starred review)

"Medwed briskly depicts the odd world of flea markets and tag sales, and makes of Abby's arduous liberation (not unlike the invalid Browning's) an adventure to which Jane Austen might have raised a celebratory glass of port....A whole lot of fun." Kirkus Reviews

"Medwed's best yet is light and learned, and she handles self-esteem-challenged Abby's crisis of confidence with humor and sensitivity." Carol Haggas, Booklist

"A buoyant dramady." Publishers Weekly

"Fans of Elinor Lipman's or Stephen McCauley's comedies of manners will be quite taken, as I was, by Mameve Medwed's newest novel... Because it's so clear that Medwed cares about [the main character's] happiness, it makes the reader root for her, as well. She's an awfully likeable heroine (although I did want to shake her once or twice for being so darn trusting). Medwed, like [Ayelet] Waldman, just keeps getting better and better with every book." Nancy Pearl, "The Beat" (NPR)

"Whether you have an old heirloom in the attic or a bad boyfriend in your past, Medwed's newest comedy is sure to satisfy your hopes, your revenge fantasies, and, especially, your funny bone." Daniel Goldin, Harry W. Schwartz Bookshop, Milwaukee, WI (for BookSense)

"[A] lovely chronicle of the quest for ownership—both of an object and of the self." BookPage

"Cambridge author Medwed's flowing pace and springy, mischievous spirit keep the story rolling along, saturated with Cambridge people, places and values—like intellectual snobbery and the desire to be liberated from it." The Improper Bostonian

"Set in the world of antiques and the people who buy and sell them, Medwed has created a romantic comedy with spunk." The Denver Post

"Packed with raffish charm." Tina Gordon, Entertainment Weekly

"[H]er voice is spot on—any woman who has felt like she doesn't quite have it together will identify with Abby." Bangor Daily News

"A love story with a high IQ...We cannot help laughing at Medwed's utter wit. This is a Cinderella story for the modern era... All Medwed's books are comedies of manners from a risible, oft hilarious point of view... Medwed's books, short stories, touch our hearts, engender a rippling outloud laugh from us as we read, glimpses of moments in that perchance, at the time, we did not recognize with laughter... Her writing is difficult to put down, her characters lingering in our minds long afterward. Perhaps because they are us." Portland Press Herald (Maine)

"It's not easy to make a comprehensive list of the pleasures of reading How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life; there are many. I've barely scratched the surface, here. Just be confident that it's a ride of self-discovery which discerning readers of fiction will not want to miss." Peter Quinones, author of The Bohemiam Aesthetic

"How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life is a wryly funny, compulsively readable novel about antiques, lost love, and how we come to appreciate the true value of the people and things in our lives. Mameve Medwed is that rare novelist who is simultaneously entertaining and insightful." Tom Perrotta, author of Mrs. Fletcher, The Leftovers, and Little Children

"Smart, witty, and delicious. Medwed's best work to date. This is a must-have for anyone who has ever seen Antiques Roadshow and fantasized about what that old painting in the attic might be worth." Anita Shreve, author of Sea Glass, The Pilot's Wife and The Weight of Water

"Mameve Medwed's How Elizabeth Barrett Browning Saved My Life may not save your life, but it will cheer you up considerably; a briskly droll comedy of modern manners." Gregory Maguire, author of Wicked and Son of a Witch

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