Arthur, a man in his mid-eighties, has lunch with his wife Nola every day of the week. No big deal, you are probably thinking. Where else is a man of that age more likely to have lunch than at home with his wife? In Arthur’s case, it’s not quite that simple. Nola, you see, is dead, so Arthur brings his lunch and a little folding chair to the cemetery every noontime so that he can talk to Nola while eating. Some would say that Arthur is pretty obviously ready to cash in his own chips so that he and Nola can be together again – and maybe there’s some truth there. But then Arthur meets Maddy, a teenager who spends almost as much time at the cemetery as he does, and his world gets interesting.
Maddy, whose mother died in an auto accident when Maddy was just two weeks old, is as lonely as Arthur, and as the friendship between the old man and the teen becomes more and more important to each of them, Maddy (because she is so impressed with Arthur’s lasting love for his deceased wife) tags him with the nickname “Truluv.” Things really get interesting when Arthur’s elderly next-door neighbor Lucile, having observed the new relationship between Maddy and Arthur, decides that she wants to get in on some of the fun herself.
The Story of Arthur Truluv is one of those rare coming-of-age novels that are just as much about the end of life as they are about growing up. Two of its three central characters are very near the end of their lives, and the third is just on the brink of beginning hers. The beauty of the novel is that all three of them bring something unique to the communal relationship, something that adds to the feeling of family that soon develops between them.
Bottom Line: The Story of Arthur Truluv is a little too predictable to keep the reader guessing much about how it all will end, and that’s a shame because there are some great moments in the novel. But even though there is never any doubt that things are going to work out well for Arthur, Maddy, and Lucile in the end, Elizabeth Berg is good enough a storyteller to keep readers turning the pages anyway.