Category Archives: Gretchen Berg

Review: The Operator by Gretchen Berg

Title: The Operator by Gretchen Berg
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical (50’s), Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: C

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through Edelweiss


A clever, surprising, and ultimately moving debut novel, set in a small Midwestern town in the early 1950s, about a nosy switchboard operator who overhears gossip involving her own family, and the unraveling that discovery sets into motion.

In a small town, everyone knows everyone else’s business . . .

Nobody knows the people of Wooster, Ohio, better than switchboard operator Vivian Dalton, and she’d be the first to tell you that. She calls it intuition. Her teenage daughter, Charlotte, calls it eavesdropping.

Vivian and the other women who work at Bell on East Liberty Street connect lines and lives. They aren’t supposed to listen in on conversations, but they do, and they all have opinions on what they hear—especially Vivian. She knows that Mrs. Butler’s ungrateful daughter, Maxine, still hasn’t thanked her mother for the quilt she made, and that Ginny Frazier turned down yet another invitation to go to the A&W with Clyde Walsh.

Then, one cold December night, Vivian listens in on a call between that snob Betty Miller and someone whose voice she can’t quite place and hears something shocking. Betty Miller’s mystery friend has news that, if true, will shatter Vivian’s tidy life in Wooster, humiliating her and making her the laughingstock of the town.

Vivian may be mortified, but she isn’t going to take this lying down. She’s going to get to the bottom of that rumor—get into it, get under it, poke around in the corners. Find every last bit. Vivian wants the truth, no matter how painful it may be.

But as Vivian is about to be reminded, in a small town like Wooster, one secret usually leads to another. .


The Operator by Gretchen Berg is a character driven novel set in 1950s Wooster, OH.

Vivian Dalton is a thirty-eight year old switchboard operator whose eavesdropping on people’s phone calls is about to rock her world. Frenemy Betty Miller learns some hot gossip from a conversation with an unknown caller about Vivian. Absolutely furious over the revelation, Vivian is determined to unearth the truth. But will learning whether this information is true or not have any effect on Vivian’s decisions about her future?

Vivian is from very humble beginnings and she is quite envious of Betty’s well to do life. The two women are in  bit of a competition and things take an ugly turn due to the malicious gossip.  In the course of investigating the  scandalous news that affects her life, Vivian also discovers shocking information about another family in Wooster. Revealing these details would satisfy her need for revenge, but will Vivian go through with her plans?

The storyline is interesting but the pacing is somewhat slow. The narration meanders quite a bit and the significance of other events occurring in Wooster do not become clear until the novel’s end. None of the characters are particularly likable and the women are rather catty and vindictive. Vivian does grow and evolve through the story which does help redeem her.

The Operator is an entertaining novel that is a little superficial despite touching on serious subject matter such as racism and bigotry. With some unexpected plot twists very late in the story, Gretchen Berg wraps up the novel with a satisfying conclusion.

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Filed under Fiction, Gretchen Berg, Historical, Historical (50s), Review, The Operator