The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper, Phaedra Partrick, author, James Langton, narrator
If you want to listen to a simply delightful story about a sweet kind, simple man, read perfectly by the reader who brings all the characters to life individually and with distinction, then this book is the ticket.
Arthur Pepper lives in Great Britain. He is a genuinely nice man who is not offensive in any way. Miriam, his wife of 40 years has passed away; he misses her. They were never a social couple; both seemed to like their private way of life. Since her death, he hasn’t really been able to motivate himself to do very much outside his home. Their life had been ruled by routines and he continues to follow them faithfully. Dirty dishes are whisked away to be washed, papers lying around are removed from where they lay, meals are simple and eaten at the same time daily. Arthur faithfully cleans, waters his plant, Frederica, and lives privately and quietly, mostly alone, except for occasional visits from his daughter Lucy and the frequent visits of his neighbor Bernadette, a very jovial, colorful, do-gooder that I think we would all love to know and love. Yet, when she rings the bell, Arthur assumes a pose like a statue and pretends he is not home, preserving his privacy. He hopes she will soon leave his doorstep. He likes her, but he does not wish to socialize with her. She brings him food, meals, pies and little treats to eat and he appreciates her kindness, he just doesn’t want to encourage it. Bernadette’s husband Carl, also died, and she is bringing up her teen-aged son Nathan, alone. She believes he needs the touch of a man and asks Arthur to accompany her on a trip to a university Arthur is considering. Nathan is a surly, quiet, kind of strange lad. He has long hair and tries to seem unconcerned and aloof in the way of a cool young man. Arthur goes along with them and attempts to connect with this sometimes indifferent youngster to help him in any way he can. There is also a neighbor, Terry, who maintains his lawn, ad nauseam, to make up for his loneliness since his wife left him. Arthur’s daughter Lucy’s husband, Anthony, has recently left her, as well. Lucy’s brother, Dan, lives in Australia with his family and is not very close to his dad. There are lots of characters in the story and each one has his own story which is revealed as Arthur follows his curiosity and discovers a part of his wife’s life that he had no idea ever existed.
So, this story really begins exactly one year from the day Miriam died, the day Arthur decided that it was time for him to clean out her things and attempt to move on with his life, because it was on that day that he found a box with a charm bracelet in it, a bracelet he had never seen before. It was in the closet hidden inside one of her boots. It is a beautiful bracelet, a piece of jewelry that he just can’t even imagine in his wife’s possession. It was so out of character for her; she preferred simple things. Yet, it must have been hers, since it was inside her boot in their closet! Arthur wonders if he truly knew his wife. Why had she kept this piece of jewelry a secret from him? It is this bracelet that sets Arthur off on a journey that changes the course of the rest of his life. When he leaves his house on a quest to discover all he can about the bracelet’s origin, he could not have foreseen what he would discover.
Arthur begins to learn not only the history of each of the eight charms, but he also discovers new things about himself. He has new adventures, engages with people he would have previously simply passed or walked carefully by on the street, and experiences moments seriously out side his own comfort zone as his wife’s past is slowly revealed to him, a past that was far more exciting than the one they shared. He begins to ponder their life together and wonders just how much they really knew about each other or understood each other’s needs. He knows he loved her and he was happy, but now he wonders, was she? As Arthur pursues the story behind the bracelet, the colorful people he meets show him far more than their outward appearance exposes. They, and his experiences, especially the one in an art class, force him to face that we are all far more than what we appear to be on the outside, that appearances can be deceiving and lead to judgments that are false and incorrect. Being narrow-minded can lead to misunderstandings. As the story moves on, the reader watches as all of the characters begin to reveal their own peculiar personality traits and seem to grow in some way because of their experience with Arthur. Each benefits from knowing the other.
The tender story reaches a satisfying conclusion when all the ends are neatly tied up. Arthur seemed to come of age, albeit a bit late, and began to appreciate things he never did before, to see people beyond their appearance, to look into their hearts, and to enjoy his life, once again. At the age of 69, he began to appreciate his wife even more as he learned about the hidden aspects of her past. He began to appreciate the changes taking place in his own personality and in his own life as he relaxed and began to really live again. He saw that it was good to take an interest in others and he began to appreciate the interest they took in him. Arthur Pepper was a charming and wonderfully likeable character, and as the reader learns more about him, the reader, too, learns that it is sometimes what is not said that is the more poignant and important, that it is sometimes what can’t be seen that is the most visible and sincere. Sometimes the one who least complains is the one who suffers the most as he learns to live with his personal trials and tribulations. At the very least, he learns that life is worth living!