Wednesday 4 April 2018

The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

Finished March 26
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaera Patrick

This novel begins with Arthur Pepper, a widower in his sixties, finally tackling get rid of his late wife's personal effects a year after her death. As he goes through everything, he comes across a small heart shaped locked box that he doesn't remember having ever seen before. Arthur was a locksmith before he retired, so picking the lock is not a big deal for him. Inside the box he finds an old-fashioned gold bracelet with several charms on it and a heart-shaped clasp. He doesn't remember ever seeing his wife Miriam wearing the bracelet, but wonders at it and the charms. The charms are an elephant with a green gemstone, a tiger, a thimble, a painter's palette, a heart, a flower, and a ring. As he looks more closely at the elephant, wondering what the jewel is, he notices some markings on it. He manages to decipher the markings as a long number, and determines that it seems to be a phone number, one in India.
Acting on the spur of the moment, Arthur decides to call the number, and finds out from a man in India that Miriam lived there as a young woman, and that the elephant is indeed from there, and the gem is a real emerald. As he learns from the man some information about his wife's time in India, he begins to wonder what else he didn't know about his wife, and what significance and origin the other charms on the bracelet have.
As Arthur reaches out from his self-imposed routine, he finds out more about Bernadette, the neighbour who has been dropping off food, and helpful information since his wife's death. As he accepts some help from her, he also meets her son Nathan, and after a rocky start with the young man, finds more in him than he first guessed.
Arthur's daughter Lucy who lives nearby visits him from time to time, but she didn't attend Miriam's funeral, something that he has never understood. As we discover Lucy's reasons behind this event, and we learn more about her struggles, so does Arthur, and he begins a new and deeper relationship with his daughter. His son Dan hasn't been home in years after emigrating to Australia and starting a family there, and Arthur is sad about the lack of a real relationship with him as well.
This book shows that people are often more complex than we realize, and we often don't know as much as we think about even those closest to us. It also shows that loss of a partner doesn't mean that that one can't find new reasons to enjoy life.

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