THE STORY OF ARTHUR TRULUV By Elizabeth Berg
Angelic Salyer Veasman is this week’s book blogger. Thanks, Angelic!
I attended the reading and signing of Berg’s latest release in early December 2017. Kind of a Christmas present to myself. I purchased my book, took my line number and found a seat. I started reading the book immediately, while waiting for the event to start, but it was a week or two before I could get back to it again. I finished the book just after the New Year and thoroughly enjoyed it. The author stated, of all of the books she’d written, this was her new favorite. While it isn’t MY favorite of hers (that would be The Year of Pleasures), I wasn’t in the least disappointed. But, I’ve not read all of her books yet.
The Story of Arthur Truluv is several intersecting tales of loss and love, heartbreak and healing, family and friendship, aging and coming of age and the legacies we leave behind – intentional or not. While the main characters are Arthur, Maddy and Lucille, Berg’s ability to create deep, meaningful supporting characters is again wielded with her signature grace. As with so many of her books and the lives she creates within them; you fall in love, learn to dislike, shake your head at, laugh with and care for these people. They are easy to relate to; in some characteristic way or another they are your neighbor, your grandfather, that one teacher you had in junior high. Speaking of junior high, Maddy is in high school and I commend Berg for broaching the subject of bullying to her audience with a spare honesty that is still moving for the reader, without being imposing or cumbersome.
It’s a quick read – it wasn’t so much an I-can’t-put-it-down-kind-of-book – the story just moved forward, beautifully and effortlessly. The prose was ethereal at times, especially when it came to Arthur, who has a way of sharing his thoughts and feelings that is often poetic, floating through time and memories and always a gentlemanly host.
Nestled within the pages of this little tome is a bit of advice or what could be considered an admonishment or even a challenge for some. I plan to take it to heart. I hope you do too.
Then Lucille says, “It’s so embarrassing to be useless.”
“Why, you’re not useless!” Arthur says.
“Yes I am.”
“You’re just going through a hard time!”
“Yes, I am, but also I am useless. I do nothing. I realized this was happening some time ago, everything falling off, but I made do. I had church. I read books, and the paper. I had my garden. And then . . . lights off! All the lights are off now. And I really don’t want to live anymore, Arthur. What is left for me now? I am useless. And so are you!”
Arthur straightens in his chair, indignant. “I’m not useless!”
Arthur rocks for a while. Lucille’s chair has gone still, but Arthur rocks for a while.
“Let me ask you something,” he says, finally.
“Did you ever hear anyone say they wanted to be a writer?”
“Yes, I’ve heard lots of people say that.”
“Everybody wants to be a writer” Arthur says.
He stops his rocking to look over at her. “But what we need are readers. Right? Where would writers be without readers? Who are they going to write for? And actors, what are they without an audience? Actors, painters, dancers, comedians, even just ordinary people doing ordinary things, what are they without an audience of some sort?
“See, that’s what I do. I am the audience. I am the witness. I am the great appreciator, that’s what I do and that’s all I want to do. I worked for a lot of years. I did a lot of things for a lot of years. Now, well, here I am in the rocking chair, and I don’t mind it Lucille, I don’t feel useless. I feel lucky.”
Angelic lives in Southern Missouri with her husband and their two cats and posts sporadically on her blog.