Monday, August 29, 2016

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

Sometimes you just need to read a book that is light, charming, and delightful. These were fitting adjectives to describe The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper,  Patrick's debut novel.

As the novel begins, Arthur, a widower for a year, decides to begin cleaning out his deceased wife's closet. In the process he discovers, in the toe of a boot  a gold charm bracelet. Arthur can't ever remember Miriam wearing it. There are 8 charms on the bracelet and he is curious as to their significance. The first charm that intrigues Arthur is a small tiger that happens to have a phone number on the back. Reaching down for the courage to call the number, he finally musters it and places the call to all places, India. There he reaches a Rajesh Mehra whose nanny was Miriam. And so Arthur's journey begins.

He follows leads for all the charms that take him to Paris, London, a manor outside Bath and a college in Scarborough. The charms reveal a part of Miriam's life of which Arthur was not aware. He begins to wonder whether he really knew his wife. Was she happy with him? Did she really love him. The charms also lead Arthur to really change his life. He has been a virtual recluse since his wife's death, but on a quest for knowledge brings him out in the world. He is befriended by a neighbor, Bernadette, who brings him pies and encourages him to leave his house. She is a catalyst for his being able to start to get on with his life.

In a secondary plot line is Arthur's relationship with his children. Lucy, who has emotional problems of her own, and Dan, the son who moved to Australia, are, for the most part, absent from his life. They did not even come to their mother's funeral. As Arthur tries to rekindle a relationship with them, he again learns more about his wife and himself. The ending is quite poignant and I will admit to a bit of a sniffle. 

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper reminds me a lot of 13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson. A series of items left to the protagonist to a different place that has meaning to that person. As Ginny and Arthur try to piece together that meaning they discover more about themselves as well as their benefactor. Patrick's book is a fun read. There is humor, a bit of sadness, some suspense, and a dark revelation. It's a fast read and a good end of the summer pool or beach book.

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