Night of Miracles
By Elizabeth Berg. (Random House, 267 pages, $26.)
Sometimes you just want a warm bath of a book. “Night of Miracles,” in which Elizabeth Berg revisits the Midwestern setting of her bestselling “The Story of Arthur Truluv,” all but serves you a cup of cocoa and tucks you into bed.
“Miracles” brings back Arthur’s lonely neighbor, Lucille, and Maddy, the young woman he had “adopted.” Newcomers are a rueful divorcee who’s moved from the East Coast for a fresh start; a lovelorn waitress and her would-be suitor, the local cabdriver; and a young family facing a health crisis.
All are looking for love, or at least community; and all of course are intertwined in the way a small town dictates. Having read “Truluv” offers a bit of background and depth, but it’s not necessary to understand and appreciate these folks.
This is not a challenging book; there are no confusing timelines or complex characters or last-minute twists. But there is simple, lovely prose and a sense of yearning that is contagious and comforting. You can almost smell the cinnamon from Lucille’s home-based bakery, and what better antidote to the stressful world?
Nine Perfect Strangers
By Liane Moriarty. (Flatiron Books, 453 pages, $28.99.)
“Big Little Lies” author Liane Moriarty is back, with a page-turner that’s already set to become another star vehicle for Nicole Kidman (whose performance helped make HBO’s miniseries even better than the 2014 bestseller).
Kidman, whom Moriarty thanks in her acknowledgments, snapped up the rights to “Nine Perfect Strangers” even before reading it. Lucky for her, it’s a winner, even if it doesn’t cut to the bone quite like “Big Little Lies.”
We meet Moriarty’s titular strangers as they arrive at a remote Aussie wellness resort called Tranquillum House, all seeking healing of some kind. The book hops from one perspective to the next: the once-bestselling romance novelist with a broken heart, the married couple whose life was ruined by a lottery win, the family of three that used to be four and is about to go through another painful anniversary.
All the while, it becomes increasingly clear that something isn’t quite right at Tranquillum House or with its mysterious owner Masha, even though the smoothies taste delightful.
Moriarty manages to poke clever fun without being mean, and she times each reveal well. The way her characters’ back stories reel in the reader made me think of binge-watching ABC’s “Lost.” The ending of “Nine Perfect Strangers,” however, is much more satisfying.