"Earth's the Right Place for Love" | Reviewed by Chris Stuckenschneider
The world would be a nicer place if there were more Arthur Masons around.
Readers might remember Arthur from Elizabeth Berg’s novel “The Story of Arthur Truluv” published in 2017. In that lovely book we meet Arthur six months after he loses his adored wife of many years and is cast about looking for a purpose in life. The purpose comes to him in a unique package, friendship with Maddy, a troubled teenage girl he meets at the cemetery when he’s visiting his wife’s grave.
In Berg’s new novel, “Earth’s the Right Place for Love,” we get to spend time with Arthur again, but as a teenager, in 1947, the spring he’s 16, “…when he came into life for a second time.”
Arthur lives in fictional Mason, Mo., with his parents and older brother Frank, a good-looking teen who tests the limits, a rule-breaker often in trouble with his father, who has a drinking problem.
Frank gives Arthur a rough way to go at times, but cares deeply about him. The rich relationship they share is touching. Arthur looks up to Frank and admires his way with girls—most of whom are dying to date him. Arthur doesn’t have much success with the opposite sex, so he goes to Frank for advice, his charismatic big brother telling him he’s too nice, and offering tips to attract girls.
There’s one girl in particular who Arthur’s sweet on—Nola McCollum, but Nola has a thing for Frank and hardly notices that Arthur’s alive, other than to provide her with details about her heartthrob. That’s how Nola and Arthur’s friendship begins, Nola spending a growing number of hours with Arthur to get information from him about Frank.
But Frank isn’t the least bit interested in Nola. He has his eye on a lofty prize, a relationship that could spell serious trouble for the senior boy, and does when he throws caution to the wind with shocking results.
There’s great wisdom in this easy-to-digest book. Arthur’s attitude is a model for us to follow as he discovers love, deals with grief and works toward accepting whatever life throws at him. Yet Arthur isn’t a goodie-goodie. He is a kind soul, but like all of us he feels deeply, gets angry, and suffers disappointment and overwhelming sadness.
“Earth’s the Right Place for Love” is a feel-good read about family and first loves, about loss and hope, refreshing in its simplicity, the bonds between the brothers heartwarming, the small town setting harkening back to a more uncomplicated era, one many of us would like to return to from time to time.