The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper Phaedra Patrick Fiction MIRA May 3, 2016 Hardcover 331
In this poignant and sparkling debut, a lovable widower embarks on a life-changing adventure
Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same gray slacks and mustard sweater vest, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden.
But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam's death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam's possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he's never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife's secret life before they met--a journey that leads him to find hope, healing and self-discovery in the most unexpected places.
Featuring an unforgettable cast of characters with big hearts and irresistible flaws, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is a curiously charming debut and a joyous celebration of life's infinite possibilities.
The book came into my possession thanks to a Goodreads giveaway.
When Arthur Pepper’s wife Miriam died he just…stopped. It is a sad and all too common story to see someone who cannot function when they lose the person they love. They knew that other person for so long, loved them for so long, that they can scarcely remember life without them. But everyone has a life before they find love even if those memories grow more and more distant and start to look like nothing but a dream. How does love change who we are; in what ways does it shape what we can become? And as life moves on, what will we think about the life or the many lives that we lived before landing where we are now? If the people who have grown to become close to us knew about those parts of our past, what would they think? That is what this story is about.
You can see a person every day, live with them, love them…but what does it take to truly know a person? That is what Arthur Pepper begins to ask himself when he finds a mysterious charm bracelet among his deceased wife’s belongings. Each of the seven charms dotting the bracelet has a story behind it and they are all alien to Arthur. The first charm leads him to a chapter in the story of his wife’s life that he had never read before. Struggling with why his wife would never have mentioned a part of her life that was worthy of a keepsake, Arthur feels compelled to learn more. Each charm leads him to clues about the next as he retraces the steps of his wife’s early life. Along the way, Arthur begins to learn as much about his own present as Miriam’s past.
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper starts off so, so sad. A married man of 40 years who felt he just could not go on without his wife. Slowly trudging through what remained of his life, distancing himself from family and friends. This little act of chance, finding this small bracelet hidden away, begins to change him. To heal him. The book makes for a heart-wrenching story that can make readers reflect on their own pasts and the pasts of the people around them. That being said, this book does take a bit of outside help to function at its best. Readers who have had similar experiences, particularly the loss of a loved one, will find the story more relatable. Others will have to rely more on their imagination and picture what Arthur is going through. The story is not exactly unpredictable but it is probably not going to get your heart racing either.
Where the story may be a bit lacking, the characters are not. It is a bit of a stretch that Arthur would find a bracelet Miriam had unknowingly had for 40+ years and then be able to trace the clues of all the charms. Even more so when you consider that each new charm always seems to lead him to another. But Arthur himself is an enjoyable character as is the rest of the cast, primarily consisting of his children, neighbors, and fern. Arthur is no spring chicken at 69 years old. But despite being that age and all the experience that comes with it, here he is learning new things; new things about his wife and about himself. Some of these are new entirely and others are important pieces of himself that were forgotten, lost in his grief. And with that journey his closed off heart reopens to something he had almost forgotten completely: love.
Editor's note: This review was written by Nicholas Watkins, originally published in Literature is Life, and has been reposted with permission. It is available under Creative Commons and the original page can be found here.