Sheryl Sorrentino

Run Reader, Run

December 20, 2015

Run, Brother, Run: A Memoir of a Murder in My FamilyRun, Brother, Run: A Memoir of a Murder in My Family by David Berg
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A murder in any family is “tell-worthy,” so you would think the story someone’s of brother being murdered would be especially so. Alan Berg’s disappearance and murder were indeed gut-wrenching to read about. However, while Run Brother, Run starts off tender and funny and engaging—full of quirky characters and ethnic “heart,” as it were, what promises at the outset to be an intimate “tell” of one family’s tragedy quickly devolves into something tedious and lackluster, spiraling into an Enquirer-esque replay of he said/she saids and “who’s zoomin’ who?”

Clearly, this book is more about the author than the murder. As The Buffalo News points out (in a review by Lee Coppola), “Run reads more like a memoir of David Berg than a memoir about a death in his family.” I couldn’t agree more. (See We spend a lot of time with David Berg over the course of these 354 pages, and to say he thinks highly of himself would be an understatement. Page after page is devoted to the author regaling us with his legal acumen. When not recounting his sometimes winding (but momentous, according to him) career trajectory as a trial lawyer, the author informs us about all sorts of shady secondary players in his family’s carpet business, most of them irrelevant to Alan Berg’s murder but seemingly included either to confuse the reader or prove that Alan Berg really was a good guy by comparison.

And yet, none of the three main characters (David Berg, his brother Alan, or their father) is especially deserving of our sympathies. The whole “we got into medical school but couldn’t/didn’t go” angle seems intended to prove that these guys really are smart and respectable, even as the whole lot of them cheat their customers (mostly poor Black folks) and rub elbows with shady types (gamblers, scammers and so forth). I hate to say it, but I found it hard to feel too sorry for the victim, a supposedly happily married father of two who, on the strength of a phone call by a woman proffering a blow job, had no qualms about running off to meet her, thereby walking straight into his murderer’s trap. Of course, Alan Berg did not deserve to be killed, and the Berg family has my utmost sympathy for their loss. But as my father always said, “When you lie down with dogs, you wake up with fleas.” That worn adage seems fitting here.

David Berg also spends a good deal of time justifying his grudge against his father. He blames the elder Mr. Berg for causing Alan’s murder by bad-mouthing one of their former salesmen (an aggressive hothead) after he had been warned by his sons to stop. Frankly, I find that a rather tenuous basis for condemning one’s father in a family’s time of shared grief. Certainly no one would ordinarily foresee that a petty dispute would lead to a son’s murder. Though I understand that in families we harbor all sorts of resentments—both logical and illogical, David Berg presents his myopic version of people and events as Holy Truth.

The straw that broke this weary reader’s back came toward the end of the book, when David Berg recounts how, in preparation for writing this story, he interviewed the bungling (according to him) prosecutor at his brother’s murder trial. At that get-together, Berg graciously and reassuringly accepts the man’s apology, but then proceeds to slam the prosecutor play-by-play for his mishandling of the trial. This very public professional assault struck me as dishonorable, especially when, as the The Buffalo News aptly notes, “Berg . . . was too busy getting his law practice off the ground to attend the trial he recounts in detail.”

I suspect the main reason this book got published was the fact that the murderer was Woody Harrelson’s father, affording the whole grubby affair the potential to sell books. Indeed, the thing that sticks with me most about this story is Woody Harrelson’s sketchy family history, of which I was previously unaware. In “A Conversation with David Berg” on the author’s website, Berg faults Woody Harrelson for “capitalizing on his father’s past [by playing] a murderous character in Natural Born Killers, a movie about a killer heroized by the press.” I daresay David Berg uses Run Brother, Run as his platform to do essentially the same thing.

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What Makes a "Good Father"?

October 24, 2015
The Good FatherThe Good Father by Diane Chamberlain
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this book. I’m not sure whether it merits four or five stars, but only because it isn’t a great work of literature. The writing is fairly simple. But after abandoning Donna Tartt’s The Little Friend after 222 pages (of 658!), “great literature” wasn’t what I was looking for. The Good Father proves that not every tale must be told with brilliant prose in order to be great.

And make no mistake, The Good Fat...

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Six Stars to "The Rest of Her Life"

September 4, 2015
The Rest of Her LifeThe Rest of Her Life by Laura Moriarty
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

From practically the opening page, this story was intense, emotional and gripping. The Rest of Her Life shows us how, from one minute to the next, one error in judgment—a teeny, tiny moment of inattention—can profoundly alter so many lives forever. I found both the plot and characters to be intelligent, moving, and utterly convincing.

Distracted by a stray dog, eighteen-year-old Kara Churchill accidentally hits and kills a pede...

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Orange is the New Black

July 26, 2015
I’ve become hooked on the Netflix series, Orange is the New Black. What a coup for Piper Kerman (author of the book by the same name)! I wish one of my books would get turned into a TV series. But seriously, unless someone you know is in prison, who even thinks about inmates or correctional institutions? The disenfranchised are tidily tucked away from view; we have no idea what goes on in such places, nor do we care. For raising our “corrections consciousness,” I give props to Ora...
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A Note of Thanks from a Pedi-phile

June 21, 2015
What is it about having a pedicure that is so darned special? For a pittance ($20 or so), I can sit in a relaxing massage chair with my feet in deliciously warm water while someone else (alas, always a petite Asian lady) rubs and scrubs, pampers and paints. At the end, my tootsies look mahvelous and I feel like a new woman.

There are nail places on practically every block in most major cities, so evidently it’s a profitable business with seemingly endless demand. Apparently, I am not ...
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The Middle of Somewhere: A Gripping and Powerful Ride

June 13, 2015
The Middle of SomewhereThe Middle of Somewhere by Sonja Yoerg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Middle of Somewhere paints a dazzling, realistic picture of backpacking through Yosemite along the John Muir Trail—a three-week, 220-mile undertaking. Sonja Yoerg reminds us that out in the wilderness, there’s no room for lies or secrets. One's soul is bared. Our human need for one another—both physically and emotionally—is raw, unmasked by the distraction of technological gizmos or the false security afforded by our s...
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So Much for That: Caustic, Intense, and F-ing Brilliant

April 26, 2015
So Much for ThatSo Much for That by Lionel Shriver
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Lionel Shriver is one of a small handful of authors whose workI consistently love—no matter how far one novel might stray from the next. In So Much for That, Shriver takes on midlife malaise, mesothelioma and the medical industry (and make no mistake, U.S. “health care” is all about industry). Her prose is scathing, angry, and unfailingly witty. I can see why certain reviewers hated this book; it is admittedly depressing. Shrive...
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Enjoyable Glimpse into Latin American Life

March 28, 2015
A Place in the WorldA Place in the World by Cinda Crabbe MacKinnon

A Place in the World tells the story one woman’s life from the 1960s onward.

First, the positives: The author creates a beautiful setting (she could write for Condé Nast!). She makes the reader feel like we’re on an adventure vacation in the Colombian Andes getting an authentic taste of life on a remote coffee finca located adjacent to the rain forest. While I think the book perhaps could have done with a tad less emphasis on botany, the n...
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How to Get Readers to Fall in Love with Your Novel

January 4, 2015

Reading a novel can—and should—be sensual, intimate, and engaging. Through the written word, readers spend time with fictional characters and take in their struggles, desires, and conflicts. A good story with convincing characters will draw readers into another dimension—a fictional getaway that resonates so viscerally, readers want to visit again and again. This phenomenon is very much like falling in love, and can be almost as compelling, which is why good writers strive to give rea...

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Life After Murder

December 4, 2014
Life After Murder: Five Men in Search of RedemptionLife After Murder: Five Men in Search of Redemption by Nancy Mullane
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I began reading this book with trepidation. I hated “digesting” the stupid, senseless acts that had landed these five guys in prison for life with possibility of parole. Most were murders committed during the course of another crime (e.g., a home invasion robbery, fleeing from a convenience store robbery, etc.). One was particularly brutal (kicking a guy in the head who’d already been robbed and...
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Sheryl Sorrentino: Real Fiction for Real Women™

Sheryl Sorrentino is a practicing attorney by day who unexpectedly discovered her passion for writing after learning of a long-deceased half-brother in 2007. She is the author of five novels (Later With Myself: The Misadventures of Millie Moskowitz; An Unexpected Exile; The Floater; Stage Daughter and Stop & Frisk) with a sixth (Smarter Than That) slated for release Spring of 2017. She lives with her husband and teenage daughter in the San Francisco Bay Area. You can learn more about Sheryl Sorrentino by visiting her Facebook page at!/pages/Sheryl-Sorrentino/249323025094995. Follow Sheryl on Twitter at @SherylSorrentin.