REVIEW: THE STORY OF ARTHUR TRULUV, BY ELIZABETH BERG

 

For the past six months, Arthur Moses’s days have looked the same: He tends to his rose garden and to Gordon, his cat, then rides the bus to the cemetery to visit his beloved late wife for lunch. The last thing Arthur would imagine is for one unlikely encounter to utterly transform his life.

Eighteen-year-old Maddy Harris is an introspective girl who visits the cemetery to escape the other kids at school. One afternoon she joins Arthur—a gesture that begins a surprising friendship between two lonely souls. Moved by Arthur’s kindness and devotion, Maddy gives him the nickname “Truluv.” As Arthur’s neighbor Lucille moves into their orbit, the unlikely trio band together and, through heartache and hardships, help one another rediscover their own potential to start anew.

My Thoughts: The Story of Arthur Truluv begins with Arthur on an ordinary day, as he goes through his routines. Visiting his late wife Nola’s grave, where he has lunch. It is his way of keeping in touch. He also visits neighboring graves and imagines what the lives of those people were like. He often remembers the moments he and Nola shared as he visits her grave.

One day he meets Maddy at the cemetery, a teenage girl who is isolated and lonely. Her father is isolated, too, still grieving the death of Maddy’s mother, but unable to share his grief with his daughter. Maddy has no friends at school; in fact the other kids often make fun of her.

Lucille, Arthur’s neighbor, reconnected with an old high school friend…but then lost him. She has given up on life now. What can she look forward to now?

Alternating narratives take the reader on the individual journeys of Arthur, Maddy, and Lucille, and reveal how they are beginning together.

An unexpected change in Maddy’s circumstances leads her to accept Arthur’s invitation to move in as his housekeeper.

Nearby, Arthur’s neighbor Lucille invites herself to move in as well. She is one of those people who is bossy and controlling, but gradually she begins to learn, through the example of Maddy and Arthur, that becoming a part of a newly created family means one has to make changes.

I loved how this story showed us the value of young and old joining together to help each other, and to make choices to begin again. As they share their lives, we learn about how unique families are created. Themes of loss, loneliness, and new beginnings kept me reading until the very last page. I will think about this story often. 5 stars.***My e-ARC came from the publisher via NetGalley.

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AN INTERIOR JOURNEY — EXPOSING THE ROOTS — A REVIEW

Against the beautiful backdrop of Northern California, five generations of women have lived, loved, and kept secrets. Secrets that are gradually revealed as the story flows. But the primary thread throughout The Roots of the Olive Tree: A Novel is the longevity of the women.

Anna, the eldest and the matriarch, is 112 and aspiring to be the oldest living person. A scientist has come to study the women through interviews and via blood samples, hoping to discover the clues, not only to the length of their years, but the “agelessness” that seems to describe them most aptly.

Anna is followed by daughter Bets, whose first daughter Callie has an aura of pain and misery about her. Deb, Callie’s daughter, has been in prison in Chowchilla for twenty years when the novel opens. Erin, Deb’s daughter, has returned home unexpectedly with a secret of her own.

I enjoyed the slow pace that seemed to only gradually reveal certain details, like not knowing exactly why Deb was in prison until later in the story, and not realizing Bets’s secrets until much later, too.

Sometimes I had difficulty distinguishing between the women, whose names (like Bets and Deb) felt so similar. And I gave up about the “great-great-great” aspect of it early on and just focused on the individuals when I could.

Not all the loose threads of the story were pulled together satisfactorily (for me), and sometimes the flashbacks appeared suddenly and confused me about where we were in time, but then I gave in to the flow of the story and simply enjoyed it. Four stars.

A JOURNEY TOWARD DISCOVERY — A REVIEW

When Joseph Weissmann announced to his wife Betty that he wanted a divorce, she was stunned. After all, they had been married for forty-eight years. His reason made no sense to her, either. Irreconcilable differences, he stated. He was seventy-eight years old and Betty was seventy-five. Of course, one of his reasons had a lot to do with a new woman in his life—Felicity. And her influence on him affects many of his decisions.

The apartment on Central Park West had been home to Joseph and Betty for many years. So when Joseph told his wife that she would have to leave, since her only financial contribution had been the small down payment, she felt confused. Homeless at her age? She had no clue that Felicity’s desire for the apartment was one of Joseph’s motivations.

Betty’s daughters, Annie and Miranda, were furious with their stepfather, but grateful for Cousin Lou, who offered the three of them a cottage in Westport. In the somewhat shabby cottage, the three women began to try to put their lives back together. Annie, a librarian, is the pragmatic one and tries to help the women sort things out. Miranda, whose literary agency is under siege because the “memoirists” under her tutelage have turned out to be frauds, must figure out what to do with her life next, but she has had a tendency in the past to make foolish choices.

Like many women who are cast aside, these three are suffering a kind of grief for their losses. They also discover that they have untapped strengths, and as they plumb the depths to rediscover who they are, they are surprised by the hidden treasures inside themselves.

What will ultimately happen between Joseph and Betty? Will Miranda finally find the love of her life, and when she does, how will she handle the unexpectedness of it? Will Annie overcome her fears of losing control long enough to see the love that is right in front of her?

In the novel The Three Weissmanns of Westport: A Novel, the three women were richly drawn, with all the flaws and strengths of real people. I enjoyed following their journey, and at the end, some surprises awaited. 4.5 stars.