The Story of Arthur Truluv, the 28th book from the prolific author Elizabeth Berg, explores issues of grief, death and aging with a gentle touch that reminds readers of the everyday grace that can be found in life.
Warmth, humor, and insight are the hallmarks of Berg’s books, and The Story of Arthur Truluv is no exception. Berg paints a vivid portrait of the life of Arthur Moses, a grieving widower:
A man doesn’t always make room in his life for appreciating certain things that seem to be under women’s auspices . . .
After a dinner of canned stew that looks like dog food, he heads upstairs to the unevenly made bed. She’d be pleased that he does that, makes the bed. Here’s a big surprise, he’s pleased too. A man doesn’t always make room in his life for appreciating certain things that seem to be under women’s auspices, but there’s a satisfaction in some of them. The toilet seat, though. Up. And there are other grim pleasures in doing things he didn’t used to do. Cigar right at the kitchen table. Slim Jims for dinner. What he wants on TV, all the time.
When Arthur makes his daily pilgrimage to the gravesite of his late wife Nola, he meets Maddy Harris, a contemplative young woman who grapples with grief over her long-dead mother and distant father. Maddy doesn’t fit in at school and has an older boyfriend named Anderson, who uses her for sex. Maddy and Arthur bond over chats at the cemetery:
“God, you really loved her! She’s digging in the earth, making a little hole and filling it up.
“I did. I do. Always and forever, Nola Corrine.”
She looks over at him. “I’m going to call you Truluv. We’ll spell it T-R-U-L-U-V.
That’s your new name.”
“And I’m going to call you Sunshine.”
Like all of Berg’s books, this one includes insightful characters who offer up wisdom about the human condition, as in this passage:
Arthur feels impulses to tell her (Maddy) he’d love to have her company any time. He feels like she is the smallest little plant dying from lack of water.
But then he realizes that he must tread carefully in this regard. People who don’t feel cared for are not always comfortable being cared for.
When Maddy gets pregnant and runs away from home, Arthur offers her safe haven. They are joined by Arthur’s bossy, yet kindhearted, neighbor Lucille in forming a modern makeshift family that allows Maddy to find peace in her own losses and move into the future with hope.