Readers, you’ve been asking me for recommendations of novels similar to A Man Called Ove, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. Several of you, especially those living in areas hard hit by winter, have asked me to suggest a charmer. So, a literal charmer it is. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper follows 69-year-old Arthur Pepper, a Yorkshire widower, as he leaves his contented comfort zone of a home to discover the stories behind the eight charms on his late wife Miriam’s gold charm bracelet.
Each day, Arthur got out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m. just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He showered and got dressed in the grey slacks, pale blue shirt and mustard tank top that he had laid out the night before. He had a shave then went downstairs.
At eight o’clock he made his breakfast, usually a slice of toast and margarine, and he sat at the pine farmhouse table that could seat six, but which now just seated one. At eight-thirty he would rinse his pots and wipe down the kitchen worktop using the flat of his hand and then two lemon-scented Flash wipes. Then his day could begin. . .
But today, the fifteenth day of the month, was different. It was the anniversary he had been dreading for weeks. The date on his Stunning Scarborough calendar caught his eye whenever he passed it. He would stare at it for a moment then try to find a small job to distract him. He would water his fern, Frederica, or open the kitchen window and shout ‘Gerroff’ to deter next door’s cats from using his rockery as a toilet.
It was one year to the day that his wife had died.
Arthur has a tenuous relationship with his two grown children. Neither one attended Miriam’s funeral. His son who lives in Australia cited the distance and business needs and his daughter who lives nearby wasn’t feeling well. Thus, Arthur has turned inward and relies on his daily habits to distract him from his woes. Finding the charm bracelet, a piece of jewelry that was entirely unlike anything Miriam would ever have worn, shakes Arthur out of his doldrums. As he heads to London and places beyond, his naiveté leads him into trouble while each escapade offers growth.
The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper isn’t literature with a capital “L,” instead, it’s a heart-warming story best told by a narrator with a British accent. This is a book to be heard, not read. Pretend that you’re a child and listen to this book as you sit in a cozy chair or drive off on a road trip to warmer climes. James Langton, the novel’s narrator, was born in York, England and studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. His voice is absolutely spot-on in evoking Arthur and those he encounters.
I’ve read several novels using charm bracelets, letters, and other mementos as plot devices and most have been saccharine wastes of my time. The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper with its wry humor, cast of unexpected characters, and yes, even the lessons it imparted, was an enchanting trek into a life I thoroughly enjoyed observing.
Listening to Arthur and his adventures made many a trip on Chicago’s not so delightful expressways enjoyable. I wonder if those who saw me as I stepped out of my car with a giant smile on my face imagined that it was a book that had me smiling. Arthur’s grief and his probable depression are expressed through a candid portrait of sincere emotional anguish, but the book is never maudlin. Rarely do I drive along laughing out loud then seconds later shed a tear while heading for my exit and I thank author Phaedra Patrick and narrator James Langton for providing such an adventure.
Summing it Up: Listen to The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper for a sentimental novel that will charm you, make you laugh, and brighten your worst day. This quintessentially British tale is as perfect for a winter day as a cup of tea and a hand knit afghan. If your book club is looking for relief from reading too many heavy tomes, this will be a “blinding” (excellent) choice. If you choose to read the novel in print the paperback edition was released on January 31, 2017.
Rating: 4 stars
Category: Fiction, Dessert, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Road Food, Book Club
Publication date: May 3, 2016
Read an Excerpt: http://www.phaedra-patrick.com/chapter-one/
Author Website: http://www.phaedra-patrick.com/
Reading Group Guide: http://www.phaedra-patrick.com/reading-groups/
What Others are Saying:
Kirkus Reviews: https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/phaedra-patrick/curious-charms-of-arthur-pepper/
Publishers Weekly: http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-7783-1933-7
“Phaedra Patrick understands the soul. Eccentric, charming, and wise, The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper is about finding courage, generosity, and compassion, even when all seems lost. With clear-eyed prose and a moving story, Patrick reminds us how selfless people can be – she reminds us to be brave. The Curious Charms is not just for those who are mourning over love or the past. This book will illuminate your heart.” – Nina George, New York Times bestselling author of The Little Paris Bookshop