Excerpt from The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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The Story of Arthur Truluv

A Novel

by Elizabeth Berg

The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg X
The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg
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    Nov 2017, 240 pages

    Jul 2018, 272 pages


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When he reaches Nola's grave, Arthur opens his fold- up chair and gingerly sits down. The legs of the chair sink a little way into the earth, and he steadies himself, making sure the thing won't move any more before he spreads his lunch out onto his lap. An egg salad sandwich he has today, real eggs and real mayonnaise, his doctor be damned. And a liberal sprinkling of salt, as long as he was at it.

Often his doctor can tell when he's been cheating, but not always. Once Arthur ate a whole apple pie covered with vanilla ice cream, and at his appointment the next day, his doctor said, "I'm pleased with your progress, Arthur; whatever you're doing, keep it up. You'll live to be one hundred."

Arthur is eighty- five years old. He guesses he does want to live to be one hundred, even without Nola. It's not the same without her, though. Not one thing is the same. Even something as simple as looking at a daffodil, as he is doing now— someone has planted double- flowered daffodils at the base of a nearby headstone. But seeing that daffodil with Nola gone is not the same, it's like he's seeing only part of it.

The earth has begun softening because of spring. The earth is softening and the buds are all like tiny little pregnant women. Arthur wishes Nola were like spring; he wishes she would come back again and again. They wouldn't even have to be together; he just wants her presence on Earth. She could be a baby reborn into a family far away from here, he wouldn't even have to see her, ever; he would just like to know that she'd been put back where she belongs. Wherever she is now? That's the wrong place for Nola Corrine, the Beauty Queen.

Arthur hears a crow call, and looks around to find the bird. It's sitting on a headstone a few yards away, preening itself.

"Caw!" Arthur says back, taking conversation where he finds it, but the crow flies away.

Arthur straightens and regards the cloudless sky, a near- turquoise color today. He puts his hand to the back of his neck and squeezes it, it feels good to do that. He squeezes his neck and looks out over the acres and acres of graves, and nobody here but him. It makes him feel rich.

Arthur takes a bite of his sandwich. Then he gets off his chair and kneels before Nola's headstone, presses his hand against it and closes his eyes. He cries a little, and then he gets back into his chair and finishes his sandwich.

He is folding up his chair, getting ready to go when he sees a young woman sitting on the ground, her back against a tree. Spiky black hair, pale skin, big eyes. Jeans all ripped like the kids do, T- shirt that looks like it's on a hanger, the way it hangs on her. The girl ought to have a coat, or at least a sweater, it's not that warm. She ought to be in school.

He's seen her here before. She sits various places, never near any particular grave site. She never looks at him. She stares out ahead of herself, picking at her nails. That's all she does. Fourteen? Fifteen? He tries waving at her today, but when she sees him she puts her hand to her mouth, as though she's frightened. He thinks she's ready to run, and so he turns away.

Maddy was half asleep when she saw that old man look over at her and wave. When he did, her hand flew up to her mouth and he turned away, then shuffled off with his little fold- up chair. She hadn't meant to do that, make him think she was afraid. Things don't come out right. If she sees him again, she'll ask him who's in the grave. His wife, she imagines, though you can't be sure.

Maddy watches as the old man gets smaller in the distance. She sees him go to the bus stop outside the gate and stand still, staring straight ahead. He doesn't crane his neck, looking to see if the bus is coming. He wouldn't be one of those people who punch an elevator button over and over, Maddy thinks. He'd just wait.

Excerpted from The Story of Arthur Truluv by Elizabeth Berg. Copyright © 2017 by Elizabeth Berg. Excerpted by permission of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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