There are times when you’re ready to read something challenging, something that takes a lot of work on your part, that forces you to contemplate complicated ideas you wouldn’t ordinarily think about. The holiday season is usually not one of those times. In the coldest, most stressful part of the year, if you’re thinking about reading at all, probably what you’re looking for is something fairly short, not too difficult, and, if possible, something that will make you feel good rather than depress you about the state of the world or about humankind. If that’s your situation, then we have a book for you, the newest book by Elizabeth Berg, The Story of Arthur Truluv.
No, that’s not actually the main character’s name, in case the notion of someone actually being called “Truluv” strikes you as too icky-sweet to bear. Arthur Moses is an elderly man whose wife died a year before the beginning of the book. He is having trouble adjusting to life alone. His life revolves around tending his roses, taking care of his cat, and going every day to the cemetery where his wife is buried. There he has lunch, feeling she’s keeping him company as she did all the years of their marriage.
Then one day he encounters Maddie, an 18 year old girl who’s hiding out in the cemetery rather than have lunch at school, where she’s bullied by other kids. Her mother died when she was born and her father barely seems to know she exists. She is, in other words, extremely lonely and ready to meet someone as gentle and kind hearted as Arthur. She’s the one who nicknames him “Arthur Truluv”, and she and Arthur begin to build their own family, helping each other deal with their grief and loneliness. Then Lucille, Arthur’s neighbor, a great baker but also a lonely person, joins their circle, and the three of them work together to find their way to start again.
It is not, as you can imagine, a book filled with suspense and high stakes adventure, but it is a book filled with warmth and emotion, the kind of book that’s perfect for the holidays or for any time you feel the need to believe in the goodness of people again.