Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg
2018 Random House
Finished on July 26, 2019
Rating: 5/5 (Outstanding)
A delightful novel about surprising friendships, community, and the way small acts of kindness can change a life, from the bestselling author of The Story of Arthur Truluv.
Lucille Howard is getting on in years, but she stays busy. Thanks to the inspiration of her dearly departed friend Arthur Truluv, she has begun to teach baking classes, sharing the secrets to her delicious classic Southern yellow cake, the perfect pinwheel cookies, and other sweet essentials. Her classes have become so popular that she's hired Iris, a new resident of Mason, Missouri, as an assistant. Iris doesn't know how to bake but she needs to keep her mind off a big decision she sorely regrets.
When a new family moves in next door and tragedy strikes, Lucille begins to look out for Lincoln, their son. Lincoln's parents aren't the only ones in town facing hard choices and uncertain futures. In these difficult times, the residents of Mason come together and find the true power of community--just when they need it the most.
"Elizabeth Berg's characters jump right off the page and into your heart" said Fannie Flagg about The Story of Arthur Truluv. The same could be said about Night of Miracles, a heartwarming novel that reminds us that the people we come to love are often the ones we don't expect.
I own over a dozen books by Elizabeth Berg and have read at least a half dozen others. As I have mentioned time after time on this blog, Berg's earlier novels were much more enjoyable than her more recent works and I had pretty much given up on her. And yet, somewhere along the way, I read several positive reviews for The Story of Arthur Truluv and thought it might be one I'd enjoy. I kept an eye out for the book whenever I visited my local library, but never went to the trouble to request a hold. Last week, I stumbled upon the second in the Arthur Truluv series and decided to give it a try, even though I'm generally a stickler when it comes to reading books in order. I decided it probably wasn't quite as critical since these aren't mysteries, which lend themselves to ever-evolving character development.
After a few disappointments on the reading front this past month, I was so happy to not only get sucked into a novel that wasn't written by Louise Penny, but to fall back in love with Elizabeth Berg's writing. I could have easily finished Night of Miracles in one afternoon, but I lingered over the novel, stretching it out for three nights of blissful reading. As soon as I finished, I wanted to start over from the beginning! I wasn't ready to say goodbye to all of the wonderful characters. I especially like Lucille, who is eighty-eight but feels like she's forty-eight.
Lucille will not give up her baths. No. In the tub, she is what she thinks being stoned must be like: she enjoys a feeling of timelessness and wide content. A float-y, perfumed detachment. After her bath, she'll read her Maeve Binchy book, and then she'll go to sleep.and
After Lucille eats the cake, she weighs herself in an effort not to have a second slice. It does not work, which she might have predicted, and so she does have a second slice. Well, she finished the cake. Maybe it's two and a half slices. Maybe it's three.and
It is a spectacularly bright Saturday morning, the kind of day that always makes Lucille feel as though the sun has been through the car wash. It's a welcome thing after so many gray days in a row. She is still in her pajamas, just rinsing out her coffee cup, when she hears a rapping at the door. Who could this be, at such an indecent hour? She looks up at the kitchen clock and sees that it's 10:50. Alright, not such an indecent hour, but still, no call, no warning of any kind.On Love and Marriage:
"I'll tell you something, Maddy. Half of a good marriage is having someone love you for who you really are. You've got that already. The other half is both of you making a commitment to stay together not only at the altar but smack dab in the middle of every ugly fight. One time when Nola and I were really going at it, I walked over and kissed her hard. And she kissed me back. And then, why, we went right back at it and finished the argument. And I'd guess she won it, she won most of them, fair and square.
"Marriage is like weather, Maddy. You take it day by day. You rejoice in the good days and get through the bad ones, though I don't think you'll have many bad ones because you found an ace of a fellow. But you go ahead and be as nervous as you need to be. A little nervousness never hurt anyone."Night Miracles is a feel-good story that will have you laughing one minute and wiping a tear from your eye in the next. It's sweet, yet not saccharine. Charming, yet not cloyingly so. Romantic, yet not sappy. I am so glad I gave Elizabeth Berg another chance. Now to get my hands on a copy of The Story of Arthur Truluv (and the final in this trilogy, The Confession Club, which is due out in November). A wise, tender read, Night of Miracles is sure to appeal to fans of Fannie Flagg, Erica Bauermeister, Marisa de los Santos, and Anna Quindlen.
My one and only complaint is the lack of recipes. I don't do a lot of baking, but there were several desserts mentioned that I would love to try. Berg's website has over a dozen recipes listed, but there are very few desserts. Maybe she'll write a cookbook... or at the very least, update her website.
Final Note: Be sure to read the acknowledgments at the back of Berg's book. They are as heartfelt and tender as her novels.