Recently, I picked up The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper because I was in desperate need of something redemptive and hope-filled. The quirky cover and flap copy made the novel sound light-hearted and adventurous, and I looked forward to an easy read. What I didn’t bargain for was the depth of emotion that kept me alternately in tears and doubled over with laughter as I traveled with Arthur on his amazing journey.
Arthur Pepper is marking the one-year anniversary of his beloved wife’s death by finally clearing out her closet. But when his fastidious nature compels him to check every pocket, nook, and cranny, he discovers a gorgeous charm bracelet that he has never seen before. The bracelet is not only expensive, it’s personal, and each charm seems poised to tell a story—though Arthur is certain that these stories couldn’t possibly have anything to do with his quiet, stable, dependable wife. Or could they? Upon closer inspection, Arthur discovers a number engraved on a tiny elephant, and when he musters the courage to call it he is set on a path of discovery and excitement.
As Arthur follows the trail of the charm bracelet, he discovers things about his wife that he could have never imagined. Why didn’t she tell him about her past? About the places she had traveled and the people she knew? Arthur is at turns fascinated and hurt. Reconciling the woman he loved for over forty years with the stranger that he is slowly discovering is both liberating and painful. And while Arthur uncovers secrets and surprises about Miriam, he also learns a great deal about himself.
This gorgeous, funny, touching book is both whimsical and profound. It is truly a gift to witness Arthur’s life unfold and expand as the pages dance by. I wept and giggled over the scene in the art studio (you’ll have to read it to understand!) and found myself cheering on not just Arthur but every single person everywhere as I longed for him (and us!) to fully realize our capacity for love and life. I highly recommend The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper to readers everywhere. I’m certain it will charm you as much as it delighted me.
Nicole Baart is the mother of five children from four different countries. The cofounder of a non-profit organization, One Body One Hope, she lives in a small town in Iowa. She is the author of seven novels, including, most recently, Little Broken Things.