Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg
Published by Random House, 261 pages, $26
A sequel of sorts to the best-selling The Story of Arthur Truluv, the latest book from former Natick resident Elizabeth Berg tells a new story about a familiar character, Lucille. In Night of Miracles, Arthur has died, and Lucille, his dear friend, now teaches baking. There’s something about the cooking of cakes and other sweet things—and Berg’s writing about it all—that sets the tone of intimacy and coziness in this book.
In a small Missouri town, the characters connect through Lucille, each bringing tenderness and their own particular sorrows to their friendships. An overweight man named Tiny pines for the waitress Monica but, in a tenderly boyish dilemma, can’t bring himself to ask her out. Iris, working for Lucille at her baking class, regrets a long-ago marriage that ended when her husband didn’t want children. But then he ended up having kids with another woman, bringing a long-lasting, angry ache to Iris’ heart.
The Angel of Death visits Lucille, reminding her of the urgency of the present. So when neighbor Abby gets cancer, Lucille lovingly, teasingly cares for Abby’s son, Lincoln. He asks her if she believes in heaven and quotes his father saying heaven is an “artificial construct,” distancing himself from the dreaded possibility. In a down-home Midwestern kitchen with these characters, Berg writes with flickers of irony and philosophy regarding loss, surprising redemptions and musings about life’s craziness—each one slowly, deliciously achieved.
From Page 119: “She hauls out her stepladder from the pantry and climbs up a step, then two, with Lincoln close behind her and with one of her hands on top of his head to steady her. She moves the hands of the clock to make the bird cuckoo and cuckoo and cuckoo and they both laugh themselves silly. One good thing about someone really liking something you have is that you appreciate it yourself all over again.” ◆