“The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper” by Phaedra Patrick is an enchanting story. This quick read will raise your spirits and remind you that people often connect in unexpected ways. While this book is not without drama or tragedy, I would definitely recommend it if you are feeling a bit glum or grumpy.
On the first anniversary of the death of Miriam, his wife of more than 40 years, Arthur Pepper begins clearing out her old things. Arthur’s life has changed very little since his wife died. He lives in the same house, follows the same routine and has the same, somewhat distant, relationship with his adult children. His life seems destined to keep running on the same tracks until he dies but then, one tiny little piece of jewelry changes everything.
While sifting through his wife’s shoes, he discovers a bracelet with eight unique, gold charms. Curiously, it is a bracelet that he cannot recall ever seeing before. Further, it seems likely that Miriam was intentionally hiding the bracelet, considering where it was found. The story might end there but for a telephone number inscribed on the back of one of the charms. A spur-of-the-moment decision to call the number marks the beginning of his grand adventure.
For the first time in more than 40 years, Arthur goes out into the world on his own. Though he is scared, his desire for answers is far greater than his fear. Who was the woman who lived the stories collected in the charms? Did he really know his wife of more than 40 years? And, most importantly, did Miriam really love him or was he merely a consolation prize? Better than nothing but, far from the first pick?
As Arthur pursues the stories connected to each charm his world expands. He meets new people, has new experiences and makes connections that ripple out farther than he could have imagined. Near the middle of the book, Arthur is explaining his journey to a stranger he has met in a pub and realizes that he is not just learning more about Miriam but more about himself, as well. “With each person I encounter, with each story I hear, I feel as if I’m changing and growing.”
The stories Arthur uncovers are a mix of adventure, tragedy, joy and melancholy. As the end nears, the story almost seems to be tying the loose ends up a little too neatly but then, like Arthur’s life, there is an unexpected jog to the left that leaves you happy, hopeful, and a bit wiser.
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