"Night of Miracles"

“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,” and an introduction to some new faces too.

Berg’s sequel is set in Mason, Mo., where readers learn more about Lucille, the widowed friend who was Arthur’s neighbor, and more about Maddy too, the pregnant teen he took under his wing in Berg’s earlier book.

Lucille is an 88-year-old retired teacher turned baker, who resides in the house Arthur left her. She acknowledges that age is creeping up, continues to miss her late husband Frank, is challenged by lowering herself into the tub, but won’t consider a shower, and is hardheaded to a fault, talking the angel of death out of taking her because she’s just not ready yet.

Though she’s outspoken, Lucille has a soft heart; she misses Maddy, who’s away at college with her little girl. Fortunately Lucille has good neighbors. A couple with a 10-year-old son invites her to dinner and begins a relationship that morphs into Lucille caring for the boy when tragedy strikes.

Lucille also is a guiding light for Iris, a divorced woman mired in regrets who takes a job with Lucille, learning and working alongside her. Suddenly, Lucille’s days are busy and her life has purpose again.

A cabdriver named Tiny lives in the same apartment complex as Iris. When the two friends frequent Polly’s Hen House, the go-to spot for tasty vittles in Mason, their lives become intermingled with Monica’s, an attractive waitress at the restaurant that Tiny wants to date but is afraid to ask, being self-conscious about his weight.

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.

“Night of Miracles” is available at Neighborhood Reads bookstore, 401 Lafayette St., in Downtown Washington.