‘Night of Miracles’: Elizabeth Berg’s tale of small-town America offers a slice of comfort

How about a nice slice of cake? Caramel, maybe? Or yellow, with milk chocolate buttercream frosting?

The characters in Elizabeth Berg’s new novel, “Night of Miracles” (Random House, 267 pp., ★★★½ out of four), frequently sit down to lovingly described treats fresh from the oven. Lucille Howard, 88, is a master baker and baking teacher who begins every class with samples served on a cut-crystal pedestal.

Lucille was introduced in the first volume of Berg’s Mason, Missouri, series, 2017’s “The Story of Arthur Truluv,” as a lifelong spinster who is given one brief chance at true love.

In this second installment, she’s alone again, but only for a moment, as her fate entwines with Lincoln, the little boy whose family buys the house next door, and Iris, a childless divorcee who has just moved to town from Boston. 

Having heard about Mason from her college roommate years ago, Iris imagines it the perfect refuge: “One river, one cemetery, one department store, with wooden floors and a ribbon department.”

After striking out at the day care center, where she ends up crying too hard to fill out the application, Iris takes a job as Lucille’s assistant. As Lucille gets a website, a direct-deposit system and custom pastry boxes, Iris becomes adept at the alchemical uses of butter and flour.

Take your cue from her and find refuge in Mason, a place blessedly free of the political chaos we now know as “real life.”

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