A Virtuous Woman
Kaye Gibbons (Adult Fiction)
Blinking Jack Ernest Stokes is forty when he marries Ruby Pitt Woodrow. Jack is twice Ruby’s age, skinny, and homely, but despite his drawbacks, he loves Ruby unconditionally and promises to take care of her. After suffering a tormented marriage to a brutal drifter, Ruby longs for stability and security and accepts Jack’s proposal of marriage. Such is the story of two very different people who transcend both economic worth and social status in order to make a marriage work.
Gibbons gives us a simple story about a man and a woman whose devotion for one another is uncomplicated, unwavering, and unbounded. Jack and Ruby’s love is quiet and kind and both derive a satisfying and greatly needed comfort from their marriage. A Virtuous Woman is a pleasant read and flows along at a relaxed pace—alternating narration between Jack and Ruby. Sadly, this book barely breaks the surface and fails to give the reader an opportunity to emotionally bond with either the story or to its characters. Gibbons succeeds in providing a big-picture view of a bittersweet relationship between two broken people, but the story could have been far richer had Gibbons further fleshed out the complicated feelings and effects associated with infertility, terminal illness, and bereavement.
Jack and Ruby’s unlikely relationship reminds us that love need not be complicated or blind. Sometimes, just having someone there offering you acceptance, kindness, and peace is enough.
* Book cover image attributed to http://www.amazon.com
The Story of Arthur Truluv
Elizabeth Berg (Adult Fiction)
Arthur Moses has had lunch with his wife Nola every day for the past six months (missing only just one day, which is not bad for an octogenarian with no car and bad knees). He departs the bus with his folding chair and bagged lunch, sits beside her headstone (she’s passed away you see, but “a promise is a promise”), and tells Nola about the day’s events or complains about their neighbor, Lucille (who considers the world to be her classroom, BUT happens to make THE most wonderful desserts). While Arthur gains comfort through his daily cemetery visits, 18-year old Maddy Harris seeks escape. Maddy is a budding photographer and artist (who is rather pretty despite that awful nose ring), but she is viewed as an outsider by her high school classmates and therefore endures relentless ridicule and abuse. At the graveyard, she finds peace, and it is here where she and Arthur meet and begin a very unlikely friendship.
Berg delivers an endearing, amusing, and pleasant story about three flawed individuals who, like most of us, merely want to be accepted, useful, and loved. Each one of them holds a piece to the others’ happiness and when they are placed together, they fit to form a quirky yet beautiful puzzle. This is a delightful read that is surprisingly uplifting and inspirational, despite the underlying themes of death and loss.
Early in the book, Maddy mentions that her English teacher taught her one of her favorite words: hiraeth, a Welsh word meaning yearning and grief for lost places. The Story of Arthur Truluv provides the reader with some glimmer of promise and hope that grief is never permanent and what is lost will once again be found.
* Book cover image attributed to www.penguinrandomhouse.com