Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg
I fell in love with author Elizabeth Berg’s writing back in the early 90’s with her first book, Talk Before Sleep. Since then I count 23 novels in 23 years and she rarely disappoints. Her trademark is the ability to make everyday and ordinary people characters you want to spend time with, meet for lunch, and so often, people you hate to say good-bye to on the last page. Having heard her speak on two occasions at bookstores in Phoenix, I felt the same about her as she displayed the warmth and compassion evident in so many of her characters as they deal with difficult situations in their life. A former nurse, many of her stories deal with sickness and death, subjects she seems very familiar with. In spite of the topics, her books are always uplifting. As author Fannie Flagg says about Berg’s latest book, Arthur Truluv, “I dare you to read this novel and not fall in love with Arthur…he will make you laugh and cry…and what it means to be human.”
Arthur Moses, at age 85 goes to the cemetery every day to eat his lunch at his late wife Nola’s grave. At night he scrounges up whatever canned goods he can find in his pantry, tries to prevent his cat, Gordon, from running away and dodges the busy-body next door, Lucille, who keeps trying to entice him to her front porch with her delicious baked goods.
One day at the cemetery Arthur meets a troubled teen-aged girl, Maddy, who often cuts classes at her near-by school where classmates torment her and make her the butt of their tasteless jokes. An unlikely friendship forms between this grieving senior citizen and the girl with a nose ring. She dubs him Arthur Truluv for the devotion he displays to his wife each day and for his loving and positive responses to every outrageous thing she says or does. Mandy, whose mother died when she was a baby, has been raised by a well-meaning but distant father so she seeks love in all the wrong places—like a handsome Wal-Mart employee who of course turns out to be a cad.
A few sub-plots are interesting also: Lucille’s rekindled romance with a former high-school sweetheart and Arthur’s walks through the cemetery and his uncanny ability to sense what a person’s life was like as he reads their name on their tombstone.
Not to be a plot spoiler, I will just say that these 3 characters—Arthur, Mandy and Lucille come together in a way that renews the human spirit and shows how small acts of kindness turn friends into family.
Although Arthur Truluv is the antithesis of recent literature’s grumpy golden agers, like Olive Kitteridge and A Man Called Ove, there are many similarities by the end of the book.