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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IN SEARCH OF “SPECIALNESS” — AN ELUSIVE JOURNEY

15815333The six of them met when they were fifteen, sixteen years old, during the summer of 1974. A time when the country was poised to watch President Nixon resign his office in disgrace. That event was not as pivotal to the self-absorbed teens as their own agenda: discovering their creativity and finding their special niche. They were attending, for their first summer, a unique camp in the Berkshires called Spirit-in-the-Woods.

They were so special in their own minds that they labeled themselves “The Interestings.” Yes, perhaps the title was meant to be ironic, but their narcissism was also showing.

Over the many pages that follow, we see the group of them morph into their young adult/college age selves, followed by their twenty-somethings. And on and on. And with each year that passes, life chips away at their “specialness,” until some of them are shadows of their former selves. Tragic events reduce their numbers, but the core of them remain connected, sometimes only occasionally.

Ethan Figman, Jules Jacobson, Ash and Goodman Wolf, Cathy Kiplinger, and Jonah Bay. Who among them would find success and happiness, if only for awhile, and who would lose huge pieces of their original selves until there was nothing recognizable remaining?

Narrated from different perspectives, we come to know the hopes, dreams, insecurities, and flaws of most of them, some more than others. Whose startling success will surprise, and sometimes diminish, the others? Who among them will hold a secret that lasts for most of a lifetime?

Of the six major characters, Jules and Ethan felt the most like people I wanted to befriend, even as others seemed so narcissistic as to arouse feelings of disappointment and even anger. Those with a sense of how special they are—that entitlement—would cause me to turn away from them.

Having grown up in those long-ago years, I could relate to the times that were a-changing, from the 70s, with their artistic, liberating, and creative focus, to the 80s, with all the shiny moments and brilliant wealth, followed by less gilded times as the years flew by.

Themes of friendship, loss, the meaning of talent, aging, and how time changes us all resonated with me. Through the years, as the financial and social disparity between some of the characters seemed to result in feelings of envy and even bitterness, it became harder to recall why any of the friendships remained. The fact that some loyalties survived the onslaught of change is a testament to the strength of youthful experiences and those connections formed then. But as the story draws to a close, and as some of the characters attempt to recapture that time in their lives, they realize that you really can’t go back. And, in going on, sometimes the secrets and lies that erupt change the landscape of their lives forever. But what still connects them will see them through.

In some books of this length, I often feel like I can’t wait to get to the end, for the book to finally conclude. But in The Interestings: A Novel, I realized that I wanted to be part of these characters’ lives indefinitely. A resounding five star read!