The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper: A Novel by Phaedra Patrick (Mira, $24.99, 331 pages)
Arthur felt his heart dip. He hoped that she wouldn’t tell him about her husband. He didn’t want to trade stories of death. There seemed a strange one-upmanship among people who had lost spouses.
They talked about their loved ones as if they were objects. Miriam would always be a real person to him. He wouldn’t trade her memory like that.
Arthur Pepper is a mild-mannered British pensioner whose wife, Miriam, passed away a year earlier. Arthur has built a solitary life structured on keeping a schedule, tidying his small house and intermittently hiding from Bernadette, a well-meaning widow from across the street who brings him home-baked pies. Lucy and Dan, Arthur’s grown children, are distant from him, both geographically in the case of Dan and emotionally in the case of Lucy.
At this one-year anniversary, Arthur decides it is time to go through Miriam’s personal possessions – clothes, makeup, shoes, etc. He reaches into one of her boots to check for anything that might be hidden deep inside. To his amazement, Arthur’s hand closes around a heavy metal object, which proves to be a gold charm bracelet. As the book’s title announces, this is the beginning of an adventure for Arthur.
Author Phaedra Patrick has used a somewhat ordinary premise to create one of the most enduring and touching tales this reviewer has read. Although the physical book is only 331 pages in length, the story between its covers contains a series of encounters for Arthur Pepper that require and demand his emotional strength and willingness to be open to a shift in perspective regarding his 40-year marriage to Miriam.
Each of the disparate characters portrayed by Ms. Patrick evolves into a fully developed and believable person. She does not rely on gimmicks or magic to provide her reader with an enlightening experience. Moreover, the phrase “you can’t judge a book by its cover” takes on multiple meanings as Arthur discovers the Miriam he never knew.
Perhaps this reviewer’s similar age to Arthur may have contributed to the resonance and warmth felt for the situations and challenges he faces. Regardless, the tears that fell as the book came to its conclusion were produced by writing that reaches the emotions of a reader, regardless of age or gender.
A review copy was provided by the publisher.
“Eccentric, charming and wise, this will illuminate your heart.” Nina George, author of The Little Paris Bookshop.
This book was released on May 3, 2016.