Night Of Miracles: A Novel by Elizabeth BergNight Of Miracles: A Novel by Elizabeth Berg

Night Of Miracles: A Novel

byElizabeth Berg

Hardcover | November 13, 2018

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The feel-good book of the year: a delightful novel of friendship, community, and the way small acts of kindness can change your life, by 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.

Praise for Night of Miracles

“Happy, sad, sweet and slyly funny, [Night of Miracles] celebrates the nourishing comfort of community and provides a delightfully original take on the cycles of life.”People (Book of the Week)

“Find refuge in Mason, a place blessedly free of the political chaos we now know as ‘real life.’ In Berg’s charming but far from shallow alternative reality, the focus is on the things that make life worth living: the human connections that light the way through the dark of aging, bereavement, illness and our own mistakes. . . . As the endearing, odd-lot characters of Mason, Missouri, coalesce into new families, dessert is served: a plateful of chocolate-and-vanilla pinwheel cookies for the soul.”USA Today

“Full of empathy and charm, every chapter infuses the heart with a renewed sense of hope.”Woman’s World
Elizabeth Berg is the author of many bestselling novels, including The Story of Arthur Truluv, Open House (an Oprah’s Book Club selection), Talk Before Sleep, and The Year of Pleasures, as well as the short story collection The Day I Ate Whatever I Wanted. Durable Goods and Joy School were selected as ALA Best Books of the Year. She ad...
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Title:Night Of Miracles: A NovelFormat:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 8.54 × 5.79 × 1.01 inPublished:November 13, 2018Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:052550950X

ISBN - 13:9780525509509

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Small town people Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg comes along at a time when we are approaching the holiday season. This is a follow-up to The Story of Arthur Truluv but is easily read as a standalone novel. It is the story of the importance of community in the small town of Mason, Missouri. The author has assembled a disparate cast of characters who cross paths and positively influence each other's lives. Small gifts of time and friendship bring joy and hope to the members of this small community. This little gem tells a beautiful story without being corny. It is the season of kindness and charity and Night of Miracles is the perfect book at this time. Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review.
Date published: 2018-11-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from One of my favourites Many thanks to Netgalley, Random House and Elizabeth Berg for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are 100% my own and independent of receiving an advanced copy. I have always felt that if I could come back and live another life, I would choose to live that life in a small southern town. You know. The kind where everyone knows each other’s names and are up into each other’s business, where you find good people, salt of the earth and neighbours help each other out. The kind of town you can wander into, plunk down roots and watch the most beautiful sunset from your porch and later, on that porch, your friends will gather and someone will pull out a guitar, someone else the spoons and you’ll make music into the night. The Saturday afternoon movie version of what life would be like. Night of Miracles is set in that sort of town. As a quasi-sequel to Berg’s “The Story of Arthur Truluv”, this one can be read as a stand-alone, however, after you read it, you will want to pick up every one of her other books. Berg writes beautifully, simple, clean. This isn’t the kind of literary fiction with language so flowery it can give you a headache. But she can make you feel as if you are right there, walking down main street or smelling Lucille’s cherry pie right out of the oven (check out the recipe!). I wanted to don one of Lucille’s aprons, bake in a class with people who will become my friends, or stop in the diner for the usual, or teach with kids like Lincoln in my class. With a small cast of characters that you come to care about, life, with its ups and downs, is just a little better because you have people around to help you. If you read Arthur Truluv, you will know most of the characters. The story centers around Lucille Howard, the elderly woman Arthur lived with, who is renting the house that Arthur left to Maddy. Maddy and her daughter Nola, are not central to the story, but we do get to follow up with her and see how she is doing. Lucille, a retired teacher, has been teaching baking classes from her home and they are becoming quite popular. She has been watching Lincoln, the next door neighbour’s kid , because Abby, the mother has just been diagnosed with leukaemia. Lucille is also trying to grow her baking classes and hires Iris to help her out. Iris has left her husband and was on her way to San Francisco, when she stopped in Mason and decided to stay. She becomes friends with Tiny, a big lug of a guy who taxi’s everyone around town. Tiny is in love with Monica, the waitress at the diner, but is too shy to make a move. Monica, who is also in love with Tiny, tried to make the first move and ask him out, but poor Tiny got so flustered he said no and now the two of them don’t know what to do with each other. Trying to convey what this book is about by listing the characters and their sub-plot, is not doing any justice to the story. That is not what the book is really about. It is about people, who are quirky, odd, with strengths and flaws, who are just trying to get by, with every day’s challenge. How opening your heart to let people in, to lean on those around you, to be grateful for who you have in your life is what makes life worth living. It is about second chances, and how you have agency in how you live your life. It is about hope and how we all get a miracle. You’ll need tissues. It is a great read, one of my favourites. The characters are ones you will want to spend time with. Her writing is seamless as she weaves the stories together. It is authentic and real. -If you are interested, I have posted three of Lucille’s recipes on my blog. I will update my blog after I test out the recipes. If they are half as good as the book claims her baking to be - I’m in!
Date published: 2018-11-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A story of unlikely friendships, community spirit, and surprising miracles Elizabeth Berg welcomes her readers on yet another stunning novel about unlikely friendships, community spirit, and surprising miracles. Night of Miracles is the sequel to the beloved book The Story of Arthur Truluv. The book picks up where it left off, so I recommend you read the first book to appreciate the story and all the eclectic characters. And what grand characters they are!! I love how Ms. Berg writes and infuses her books with her characters’ deepest thoughts. It feels like they are sitting beside you, pointing out this and that while telling you the story. Her writing is beautiful and whimsical. I highlighted so many phrases in the book because they are inspirational or motivational. I was reading the novel on the commuter train; that might have not been my brightest moment since there are parts in the book which are very emotional, and I wear my heart on my sleeve. Just to say, that my fellow commuters watched me dabbing my eyes several times. If you like books that make you feel human, these two books are for you. Select a quiet place, start with The Story of Arthur Truluv and end with Night of Miracles. See if this little exercise does not change you in some way.
Date published: 2018-11-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Honest, pensive, and affecting! Night of miracles takes us back to the small town of Mason, Missouri and into the lives of many, including Lucille Howard who’s still teaching people to bake, befriending those who are lonely, and selflessly helping those in need; Iris, a middle-aged woman, struggling to move on after a recent divorce; Tiny, a large man with no confidence and courage; and Abby, a young mother battling for her life against a relentless disease. The prose is vivid and sincere. The characters are complex, genuine, and engaging. And the absorbing, astute plot takes us on a heart-wrenching rollercoaster ride of love, loss, friendship, family, community, thoughtfulness, loyalty, and companionship. Overall, Night of miracles is another beautifully written tale by Berg that made my heart fill with joy and burst with heartbreak. It’s a perceptive, sentimental, poetic tale that reminds us that life is not only about the highs and lows but also all those quieter moments in between.
Date published: 2018-11-13

Read from the Book

Surely you’ve had this happen. You are seated by choice or misfortune in a window seat on an airplane. You look out as the plane takes off, rises up higher and higher, levels off. If you chance to glance down, you see a particular kind of order not realized on earth. You might feel a kind of hopefulness at the sight of houses clustered together in their various neighborhoods, at roads running straight or artfully curved, at what look like toy cars. You see the lakes and rivers, occasionally the wide stretch of ocean meeting horizon. You see natural quilts formed by the lay of fields and farmlands, you see the grouping of trees into parks and forests. Sometimes you see the splendor of autumn leaves or Fourth of July fireworks. Or sunsets. Or sunrises.All of this can inspire something unnamable but nearly graspable, a kind of yearning toward a grand possibility.And then you land.But what if you landed differently?Diamonds in a BoxAfter she has dried and put away her supper dishes, Lucille Howard sits at her kitchen table and contemplates what to do with another empty evening. A few years back, she might have sat out on the front porch with her former neighbor and then roommate, Arthur Moses, a man too good of heart for this world, in Lucille’s opinion, though she and many others profited plenty from his continual kindness.She pushes herself up from the table and goes out onto her front porch to stand with her hands on her hips, taking in a better view of the night sky. From the kitchen window the stars are so clear they look like diamonds; out here, it’s even more glorious.As a child, Lucille thought stars were diamonds, and that if only she prayed in the right way, the cigar box she kept under her bed would be filled with them some morning, and she could make a necklace out of them. Never happened. Well, of course it never happened, stars are not diamonds. They’re suns, really, just balls of gas. If there’s one thing Lucille hates, it’s how science has to rain on whimsy’s parade: Rainbows not a gift from leprechauns offering pots of gold, but only a trick of refraction. A blue sky not a miles-wide painting done by a heavenly hand, but molecules scattering light. Still, when Lucille sees the stars strewn across the sky on a night like tonight, they’re diamonds, and she thinks they might end up under her bed yet. Maybe she’ll put a box back under there. Tradition. Whimsy. Hope. Magical thinking, oh, she knows it’s magical thinking; and she knows, too, that she’s more prone to it now than she ever was. But what fun to imagine kneeling down to lift the dust ruffle and just check. And there they are at last, diamonds in a box, shining so hard they light up the surprised oval of her face.It’s cold enough for a jacket, this being the first of October, but Lucille is still in the habit of summer (the roses still blooming!) and so has neglected to put one on. It feels like too much work to go back in and get one, so she settles into a rocking chair, wraps her arms around herself, and moves vigorously back and forth. There. That’s fine. It’s good for you to be a bit uncomfortable from time to time, especially if you’re only a few steps away from relief. People forget about the value of adversity. It was something she always tried to teach her fourth-grade students, how adversity can strengthen character. She also tried to teach them the value of having to work for something instead of it being handed to you the instant you said you wanted it. That’s what happens these days, no one waits for anything. But Lucille used to give her class construction-paper coupons with points for good behavior or for scholastic merit; and when they had enough points, she’d bake them a little baby pie in a five-inch tin, whatever kind they wanted, and they got to keep the tin. They’d loved that. Once, a boy named Danny Matthews had wanted to cut his pie up so that everyone in the twenty-three-pupil class could have some. That had been a good lesson in mathematics. Danny was one of those kids who was never much liked, no matter how hard he tried. He was a very clumsy boy (the kids called him Mr. Magoo for the way he tripped over and bumped into things), and perpetually disheveled. Well, Lucille liked him and his crooked grin, and he loved her—he might act up with others, but he always listened to her. She heard he’d enlisted and gotten killed in Afghanistan.It was true what they told her on the first day of teachers’ college: you never forget some of your students. For Lucille, it was the cut-ups she could never keep from laughing at, the dreamers she had to keep reeling back into the classroom, and little Danny Matthews, with his ragged heart of gold.Lucille gives herself a challenge: she’ll stay out here until it feels like her teeth might chatter. Then she’ll go inside, draw a bath, and have a soak in Epsom salts. One thing she’s grateful for are the grab bars she’s had installed, though even with them, getting herself down into the tub is a herculean task that reminds her a bit of elephants lowering themselves onto tiny stools, the way they used to have to do in the circus. She’s glad no one can see her, the way she grunts and huffs and puffs. Lord! they would say. Why don’t you switch to showers? You’re eighty-eight! True, but mostly she feels like she’s sixty-eight. When she was sixty-eight, she felt like she was forty-eight. And so, although she knows the logic is off, she tells everyone that she feels 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.Maeve Binchy died young. Seventy-two. Lucille bets there are seventy-two-year-olds who can still do the splits. If she could have given Maeve Binchy a year from her own life, you can bet she’d have done it. She actually cried when Maeve Binchy died, she sat in a kitchen chair and twisted a Kleenex in her hands and cried, and she felt a little tornado of frustration in her midsection because there was another good one, gone too soon.Well, bath and bed and then another day will be done, and she’ll be another step closer to the exit grande. She’s not morbid, she’s not sad, she’s just a realist. She is closer to death. Everyone is, from the moment they slide out of the womb. From time to time, Lucille even feels a jazzy jump of joy, thinking about the journey to the place no one knows about, really, never mind the stories of the bright light and the tunnel and whatnot. No one really knows.Just as she’s ready to get up and go inside, she sees the neighbor who bought her old house, right next door to the smaller house she lives in now, which was Arthur’s house. He willed it to Maddy Harris, the girl who used to live here with them, and Lucille now rents it from Maddy, if you call “rent” simply taking care of the place. The neighbor is coming out to walk his dog. Lucille has nothing against dogs, but that one is the ugliest thing she’s ever seen. An ancient, mid-size gray mutt who looks like he needs a shave. Bugged-out eyes like a pug. A bit bowlegged. A tail that looks more like Eeyore’s than a dog’s. And his name: Henry. Now, why in the world would you give a dog that looks like that a name befitting a king?“Hello, Lucille,” the man calls over.“Hello, Jason,” Lucille answers, though she muffles the name a bit. Is it Jason? Or is it Jeremy? Or Jeffrey? It’s a little past the point where she can ask; the neighbors have been there for almost a year. The J. person, his wife, Abby, and their ten-year-old son, whose name is . . . ​well, for heaven’s sake. Starts with an L. Liam? Leroy? Lester?She closes her eyes to concentrate. Lincoln! That’s it. Another strange name, if you ask her. What’s become of Spot and Rex and Champ for dogs? What’s become of Mary and Sally and Billy for children?This is what happens. You live past your time of importance and relevance and the world must be given over to the younger ones. Lucille is all right with that notion. As the old folks yielded to her as a young woman, she will yield to the young folks coming up after her. But there is one thing she’s going to get before she is here no more. And that is a very specific miracle, which she feels is owed her. In spades.Lucille has kept her eyes closed and is startled now by the sound of footsteps: J. and his dog, coming up onto her porch. She cries out and leaps to her feet.“Sorry,” the man says. “Did I scare you?”“Yes!”“I’m sorry.”“It’s all right.” She pulls her hand down from where it had flown up onto her chest.“I just wanted to ask you if you’d be free to come to our house for dinner tomorrow night. Abby’s been meaning to ask you forever, but we—”“Tomorrow night? What time?”“Seven?”“Seven! How can your son wait that long to eat?”“Six?” the man asks, smiling.“That’s better.”“Okay, good, we’ll see you then.” J. pulls at the leash, but Henry apparently has no interest in going anywhere. He stares up at Lucille as though he’s forgotten something in her house and won’t leave without retrieving it.“Run along now, Henry,” Lucille says. “Obey your master.”The dog moves closer to her, sniffs at her toes, then at the hem of her pants. “I was just going in . . .” she says, and Henry barks: once, twice, excitedly.Lucille puts her hands on her knees and bends toward the dog. “What is it, girl?” she asks. “Is Gramps in trouble?” She looks up at J., grinning.The man stares at her blankly.“Lassie?” Lucille says.“Who’s that?”“A show that used to be on TV? About a collie dog? And his boy, Timmy?”“Ah,” J. says. “Right.” He pulls harder at the leash and the dog finally comes to him. “See you tomorrow.”“I’ll bring dessert,” Lucille says. She has some cake left over from the last class she taught. Her baking classes have been getting so popular that she recently put an ad in the local paper to hire some help.The man turns around. “Uh, we don’t . . . I hope this doesn’t offend you, but we don’t eat dessert.”Lucille cannot think of one thing to say, but finally manages a stiff, “I see.” And here is a bit of a miracle right now, because what she really, really thought she’d say is, “Never mind, then. I don’t want to come.”They’re probably vegans. They’ll probably have a square loaf of some brownish mass on an ugly pottery platter and a bunch of vegetables so barely cooked they’re next to raw. Lucille will put a potpie in her oven before she goes over, so she can eat when she gets home.She goes inside, and the warmth of her house settles around her. Come here, dearie, says the kitchen. Come and have a nice slice of cake.She does exactly that. Yellow cake with milk-chocolate frosting, a classic, but if you use Lucille’s recipe for yellow cake and buttercream (Southern, of course) it’s a bit more than a classic. It’s a table-pounder. It’s a groaner. “Oh, my goodness, this is five stars!” said a woman who took the class, after she tasted the cake. “Six!” said another, her mouth full, and Lucille has to agree. She never expected that the adult response to her desserts would be more enthusiastic than the kids’. But then for the young children she teaches (ages five to seven, no older, no younger, no exception), everything is still a wonder. One day, teaching a fancied-up version of Rice Krispies Treats, she had to compete for their attention with a squirrel that came to the kitchen window to look in. The weather’s another distraction. Let big fat snowflakes fall, or thunder boom, or a sudden wind whoosh through the trees, and she’s lost the entire class.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 finishes the cake. Maybe it’s two and half slices. Maybe it’s three.She bathes, and she supposes it’s having eaten all that cake that makes it even more difficult than usual to get out of the tub. Worth it.She climbs into bed, reads for a while, then turns out the light. She lies flat on her back and stares at the ceiling, aware of a throbbing loneliness that comes over her from time to time. “Lucille Pearson,” she says into the darkness. And then she says it again, more slowly, “Luciiiiillllle Peeeearson.” Still not right. “Mrs. Frank Pearson,” she says, quite briskly, even authoritatively. That’s the one. That’s how she would have said her name, if she’d had the opportunity.This is the first time she’s ever said out loud what she would have been saying for five years now, had she married him. The words make for a quick mix of emotions: First a zippy thrill, then a big ploppy sense of contentment, and it’s like butter in a pan, that feeling of contentment, melting and spreading out inside her. Then a terrible bitterness, because she is not Mrs. Frank Pearson, nor will she ever be.She sighs and turns onto her side. Tears slide down her cheeks and she wipes them away. She supposes she’ll always cry over Frank: finding the first and only love of her life in high school and losing him, then finding him again—at eighty-three!—only to lose him again, to a heart attack, just like that. Here, then gone again. So very much here, then so very much gone.She closes her eyes and tells herself to dream of him. Oftentimes, it works, telling herself to dream of someone, and her dreams are increasingly very real-seeming. After the death of her friend Arthur, she could summon him up on a regular basis. She dreamed of Arthur sitting on the porch with her, as he so often used to do, eating cookies, taking his tiny bites and brushing crumbs carefully into his hand.

Bookclub Guide

1. What is your idea of a miracle? How do you think the inhabitants of Mason would each answer that question?2. The author has said that she had specific individuals in mind when she wrote the visitation scenes. Who do you think was Lucille’s angel? Who do you think visited Abby in the hospital?3. Do you think the small-town charms so prevalent in the Mason, Missouri, books exist in the real world? Have you ever seen the evidence? Would you like to live in a small town like Mason? Why or why not?4. What do you think of Lucille’s baking classes? What do people learn at Lucille’s classes besides baking tips?5. Which recipe of Lucille’s would you most like to sample?6. NIGHT OR MIRACLES, like THE STORY OF ARTHUR TRULUV, features friendships between characters of different ages and backgrounds at the heart of the story. What do Lucille and Lincoln teach each other? What do Lucille and Iris teach each other? How do they help each other?7. How is Tiny changed by his relationship with Iris? What does he need to learn about himself before accepting himself in a relationship?8. Who was your favorite character in the book? Why?9. In your opinion, what is the greatest friendship or love story in NIGHT OF MIRACLES?

Editorial Reviews

“Happy, sad, sweet and slyly funny, [Night of Miracles] celebrates the nourishing comfort of community and provides a delightfully original take on the cycles of life.”—People (Book of the Week)   “Find refuge in Mason, a place blessedly free of the political chaos we now know as ‘real life.’ In Berg’s charming but far from shallow alternative reality, the focus is on the things that make life worth living: the human connections that light the way through the dark of aging, bereavement, illness and our own mistakes. . . . As the endearing, odd-lot characters of Mason, Missouri, coalesce into new families, dessert is served: a plateful of chocolate-and-vanilla pinwheel cookies for the soul.”—USA Today   “Full of empathy and charm, every chapter infuses the heart with a renewed sense of hope.” —Woman’s World   “Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg is comfort food on a frosty day, a welcome reunion with characters we met in Berg’s novel The Story of Arthur Truluv. . . . Berg stirs our hearts with her palette of heartwarming small-town people, ordinary folks but nonetheless endearing. Simply written, homespun but not soppy with sentimentality, Night of Miracles is a feel-good read that would make a lovely gift featuring a crusty widow who believes in ‘baking from scratch’ for ‘cripes’ sake,’ a spitfire readers are sure to enjoy.”—The Missourian   “Elizabeth Berg’s new novel is a feel-good affirmation of life and love, but edgier and more interesting than the scripts one finds on the Hallmark Channel. . . . What elevates Night of Miracles is Berg’s crisp and often poetic writing and how effortlessly she weaves together her ensemble cast.”—The Columbus Dispatch   “Berg is a master of the ensemble cast, twining character arcs together, teasing knots apart, and tying the entire plot together beautifully. This will delight and inspire fans of Anna Quindlen and Amy Bloom and anyone who’s ever imagined living in Gilmore Girls’ Stars Hollow”—Booklist   “Mason, Mo., is the enchanting setting for a series of small but life-changing events in Berg’s winning novel. . . . The language is smooth and the story moves along at a comfortable pace. . . . This pleasant novel highlights the joys that can come from the little things in life.”—Publishers Weekly“Elizabeth Berg is a master storyteller and one of my personal favorites. Night of Miracles is full of charming, entertaining characters that tug at the heart.”—Debbie Macomber, #1 New York Times bestselling author “The thing about an Elizabeth Berg novel is, it’ll always make you feel hopeful. True to form, Night of Miracles is wise and funny, not shying away from life’s troubles but spotlighting the shining small miracles and pleasures of ordinary days. And, of course, there are delicious cakes.”—Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us