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
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand
Helen Simonson (Adult Fiction)
Ernest Pettigrew (that’s MAJOR Pettigrew to you) is retired and enjoying his tea, books, garden, and a rather predictable life in Edgecombe St. Mary. That is until his brother unexpectedly dies, his son is dating some leggy American from New York, and he’s suddenly developed a rather uncontrollable fancy for Mrs. Ali, a widowed woman from Pakistan who runs the village shop. Why, it’s enough to leave this settled, retired gentleman rather…unsettled. And that won’t do.
Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand was Simonson’s first novel and she didn’t shy away from sensitive and controversial topics. Instead, she fearlessly jumps in with both feet and tackles cultural and religious conformity head on. The book begs the question, “Is it possible for someone in the minority to be accepted by the majority: fully and unconditionally?” She broaches the subject with honesty and respect and, most importantly, shows us the fallout of when the heart overrides the horde. The front flap states, “Sometimes love does conquer all”, but I found that not to be entirely accurate. Love may conquer most, but it is not infallible. While the war may be bravely fought, there will be casualties and lives will be changed—whether for the better or worse depends of which side of the battle line you happen to fall.
All in all, Simonson succeeds in delivering a witty, charming, and delightful read and she gives us a main character deserving of his own BBC series. The writing is crisp and intelligent, the story advances at a steady and comfortable pace, and the list of characters range from the exasperating to the enchanting. All combine nicely—like a good cup of tea, a nice plate of biscuits, and a robust fire in the grate—to fulfill even the most particular of palates.