By Phaedra Patrick. A poignant tale of true love.
Story: Diane Dean
How many of you have a charm bracelet? Is it a reflection of your interests and activities in your youth? Those questions initiated the discussion facilitated by Ann Schooley at the Bookworm Book Club in The Villages. “The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper,” by Phaedra Patrick, uses a charm bracelet to take readers on a journey.
A year after the death of his wife, Miriam, Arthur continues his rigid routine of rising at the same time each day, wearing the same outfit, and watering his plant named Frederica. Even the interruptions by his friendly neighbor Bernadette bringing casseroles are unwanted and often ignored.
When Arthur discovers Miriam’s charm bracelet, he sets off on a journey to discover Miriam’s life before they met, one he had absolutely no idea existed. During her youth, she traveled to India, France, and London. Travel itself is foreign to Arthur until he follows the chain of experiences and adventures of the characters that peppered Miriam’s life. He meets tiger lover Lord Graystock; a caring homeless man; and a French wedding boutique owner, Sylvie, who shockingly labels Miriam a murderess. There’s also a novelist Francois, a possible lover; illegal immigrant Sebastian; and an Indian doctor.
The more Arthur encounters these unique men and women from Miriam’s youth, the more he reconnects with his children, his neighbors, and friends and opens himself to new clothing and adventures. Miriam’s love of art creates a situation where Arthur poses nude for an art class, which is totally out of character for him.
How we remember things is a significant element of the book. Arthur does not see himself as a very good husband or father. However, he begins to see himself in a more positive light as the book progresses. He ventures beyond his patterns of sameness and steps out of his comfort zone.
The question of why Miriam never revealed her colorful past to him was answered by book club readers with the thought that she wanted to let him be who he was, or possibly to protect him from feeling inadequate. Miriam’s change of lifestyle showed her love for him. Many other forms of love, including sibling, friend to friend, neighborly, and parent to child, emerge in the book.
Change and growth occur throughout our lives. Arthur’s journey, following the charms on the bracelet, ignites his journey of development at age 69. At a time when many people are settling in, he is welcoming new adventures. He also recognizes some of his strengths as a comforter, a guider, and a supporter for others.
The author paints effective pictures of scenes, places, and characters as the story keeps the reader moving along, eager to discover the significance of the next charm. The book club found it an enjoyable read and an interesting discussion.
I wonder how many of its readers pulled out their own charm bracelet and took a trip down the memory lane of their lives?
About the author
This is Phaedra Patrick’s first novel, released in 2016. It is optioned to Hollywood for a movie. Her second novel, “Rise and Shine Benedict Stone,” came out last year. She prefers to write about “characters undergoing transformation.” Then she introduces obstacles on the journey to make it more interesting. Her website under her name has a list of writing tips for authors and information about her books. Her Facebook page features a video of her in her British home.
After despondent widower Arthur Pepper discovers a charm bracelet belonging to his late wife, he not only discovers the surprising life his wife led before marrying him, he also learns a great deal about himself. A delightful, charming coming-of-age story.
—Shari Greifner, Bonnybrook
A delightful story of a lonely man who discovers a charm bracelet belonging to his deceased wife, Miriam. This sets him on a journey leaving his regimented life to spread his wings and discover the secrets of Miriam’s former life. If you like charm bracelets and the stories behind each charm, this is the book for you.
—Gail Feind, Pennecamp
The clever deconstruction of the novel by the facilitator, Ann Schooley, resulted in an outstanding conversation that was truly enjoyable. I wonder what would be on my or even my husband’s charm bracelet?
—Marilyn Fleming, Sanibel
If you like touching love stories replete with a few quirky characters and some very interesting albeit unlikely scenarios, then you will devour this novel. You will delight in the laugh-out-loud portions of the novel and find yourself shedding a tear or two for Arthur at other times. This is a charming debut novel, and I eagerly look forward to more from this talented British author.
—Kathy Porter, Rio Ponderosa