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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Maddy looks like her mother: she has her dark hair, her wide blue eyes, her little cleft in the chin. What she wants to know is if she is like her mother.

Maddy writes poems and takes pictures. Lately, she takes pictures of little things and blows them up big so that she can really see them. In poems, she does the opposite: big things get made small so that she can see them. The interest in these things did not come from her father.

Mr. Lyons is talking about Hamlet. Maddy lets her mind wander. She already knows about Hamlet. They were given a week to read it and Maddy read it that night. To be, or not to be. Right. That is the question.

Arthur shuffles over to the stove and turns the heat on high under leftover beans. Then he walks back to the table and walks back to the stove. No shuffling. See, Nola?

He adds catsup to the beans, maple syrup, raw onion, Tabasco, and bacon bits from a jar, though they aren't bacon at all. He cuts a piece of cornbread, butters it, and lays it on the plate, and, when the beans are warm enough, dumps them over the bread. He opens a bottle of beer and sits down to eat.

Gordon jumps up on the table and stares fixedly at him. "Be my guest," Arthur says, moving the plate closer to the cat, so they can share. Gordon sits with his front paws lined up exactly even and eats daintily from one side of the plate. Then he stops abruptly, shakes his head like someone has sprinkled water on him, jumps off the table, and pads away, his tail held high in disdain. "You try cooking then," Arthur says, "you think it's so easy." Funny how an animal can hurt your feelings when you're all alone.

He thinks about maybe watching television later, but he can't much tolerate it anymore. What with the way people behave on there. He'll probably just take a walk around the block after dinner and hope Lucille Howard is not sitting out on her porch. If she's sitting on her porch, he's a dead man. Lucille taught fourth grade for many years, and she seems to think the world is her classroom. She's a bit didactic for Arthur's tastes, a little condescending. Odd, then, that at the thought of seeing her, his weary old heart accelerates. He supposes it could be an erratic beat, he gets them, but he'd prefer to call it something else. So much of everything is what you call it.

He wets his hair at the kitchen sink, then pulls his comb out of his pocket and holds up a pot for a mirror. The bones of his face protrude; he's gotten so skinny he could take a bath in a gun barrel. But good enough. Good enough.

The cat walks behind him as he makes his way to the door. "You coming?" he asks, holding the door open. Gordon is allowed out as long as it's light outside. He's proven his indifference to hunting, an anomaly Arthur appreciates. The cat doesn't move. "Just seeing me out?" Gordon looks up at Arthur, but keeps still. "I'll be back in half an hour," he says. People say cats don't care, but they do.

When Arthur passes Lucille's house, he keeps his gaze focused straight ahead. No point in inviting it. But she's sure enough out there, and he hears her calling him. "Arthur! Want to come and sit a bit?"

He hesitates, then turns and starts up her walk. Gives her a friendly smile, to boot. He wishes she wouldn't wear a wig, or at least not one that sits so crookedly on her head. It's a distraction. Sometimes he has to restrain himself from reaching over and giving it a little tug, then smacking her knee in a friendly way and saying, "There you go!" But why risk humiliating her?

Arthur thinks that, above all, aging means the abandonment of criticism and the taking on of compassionate acceptance. He sees that as a good trade. And anyway, Lucille makes those snickerdoodles, and she always packs some up for him to take home, and he eats them in bed, which is another thing he can do now, oh, sorrowful gifts.

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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