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Book Discussion Questions: The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper

the Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper book coverTitle: The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper
Author: Phaedra Patrick
Page Count: 331 pages
Genre: Mainstream Fiction
Tone: Bouncing-back, Relatable, Heartwarming, Engaging

Summary: Sixty-nine-year-old Arthur Pepper lives a simple life. He gets out of bed at precisely 7:30 a.m., just as he did when his wife, Miriam, was alive. He dresses in the same gray slacks and mustard sweater-vest, waters his fern, Frederica, and heads out to his garden. But on the one-year anniversary of Miriam’s death, something changes. Sorting through Miriam’s possessions, Arthur finds an exquisite gold charm bracelet he’s never seen before. What follows is a surprising and unforgettable odyssey that takes Arthur from London to Paris and as far as India in an epic quest to find out the truth about his wife’s secret life before they met– a journey that leads him to find hope, healing, and self-discovery in the most unexpected places.

SPOILER WARNING: These book discussion questions are highly detailed and will ruin plot points if you have not read the book.

The Library is happy to share these original questions for your use. If reproducing, please credit with the following statement: 2019 Mount Prospect Public Library. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.

  1. 1. How is Arthur set in his ways? How does his journey change his attitude toward daily routine and the comforts of home?

2. Arthur feels comfortable in his house and finds security in his daily routine. Are there any problems with this? If someone wants to stay home a lot, is that in and of itself a bad thing? How does one find the right balance of being home and going out, and can this change over time? What are the downsides of being a “homebody” as people age?

3. Is it more difficult to break out of routines (and comfort zones) as we age? Is it more difficult to open our minds to new possibilities?

4. How much does daily routine factor into the experience of marriage? How is Arthur’s routine disrupted after he loses Miriam? How can routine be helpful in coping with the loss of a spouse? How can it become a hindrance?

5. How does this book capture the experience of being a widow?

5. Speaking of their neighbor Bernadette, Miriam had remarked once to Arthur that “bereaved people act in one of two ways…” (pg. 32). Based on your observations and life experience, what do you think? Do you believe Miriam would have accurately predicted how Arthur handled bereavement?

7. How many secrets did Miriam keep from Arthur? Which revelations are most surprising?

8. How do Arthur’s discoveries affect his view of their marriage? How does Arthur’s view of Miriam change by the end of the book?

9. How does Arthur view the bracelet as he learns more about his wife? How does he balance his curiosity with the frustration of not knowing Miriam as well as he had thought? Several times he said he wished he never found the bracelet. Do you think by the end of the story he still wished that?

10. There are popular wedding shower games based on discovering how well the engaged couple knows one another – how would Arthur have fared in such a party game? If a fiancé doesn’t perform well on such quizzes, should it be a cause for concern? (How important is it for a couple to know details about their lives before they met?)

11. What are the different ways in which a relationship can change over time? Is it bad if the relationship doesn’t change? How are Miriam and Arthur similar to other lifelong couples that you know?

12. Ponder some of Arthur’s concerns about his marriage after he learns more about Miriam’s past – do you think Miriam was bored with Arthur and/or with married life? Did Miriam feel trapped? Had she settled? Did he keep her from doing things she enjoyed?

13. Did Miriam’s secrets prevent them from having a successful marriage? Were Arthur and Miriam happily married? (Was their marriage a good one?) Were they a good match for each other? Was Arthur a good husband to Miriam?

14. Does the novel provide enough info about their marriage for you as reader to form an opinion of it?  Are you curious about Miriam’s perspective on her marriage with Arthur?

15. If he could start over again, what would Arthur do differently in his marriage with Miriam?

16. “They should have visited new places together” (pg. 112 ) —  Do you think it is common to have some elements of regrets when looking back on a long, seemingly successful marriage? Even if they had traveled more, if Arthur and Miriam were always together is that another form of being “sheltered”?

17. How important is it for couples to get out of the house and do (fun) things together? How important is it for people to get out and do things (on their own or with friends) without their partner? Should couples encourage each other to pursue their own interests and strengthen connections with others?

18. Whether you are married or not, why is it important to seek out novelty, such as exploring new places and meeting new people?

19. Do you strive to seek variety and new experiences in your life? How do you balance the comfort of the old with the fun of the new? Has reading this book inspired you to shake up your routine, seek new experiences, meet new people, and/or travel?

20. Through his adventures seeking info about his wife’s charms, how is Arthur pushed out of his comfort zone? Do these experiences contribute to any personal change? How is Arthur better able to connect with other people by the end of the book?

21. Do you believe Miriam left the bracelet in a place where she knew Arthur would likely discover it?

22. When Arthur looks at the photos hung for his birthday celebration, what is the significance of his noticing Miriam wearing the bracelet in a photo when the children were young? How long ago do you think she stopped wearing it? (How long do you think it had been in the boot?)

23. If her illness hadn’t been so sudden, do you believe Miriam would have ever told Arthur about her past?

24. What’s next for Arthur after he returns from Goa? What kind of daily routine do you think he’ll develop, and how will it differ from before he discovered the bracelet? How do you see him interacting with village residents/neighbors/ acquaintances/friends? How about with Lucy and Dan? Do you see him becoming good friends with Bernadette?

25. Why can it be difficult for adult children and their aging parents to connect and relate to one another? Do you believe Lucy and Dan are emotionally distant? What about Arthur?

26. There are two chapters focused on Lucy. Would you have liked to read more from her point of view? Do you believe there should have been a chapter or two focused on Dan for balance?

27. How would you describe the interactions between Arthur and Nathan? How do they view each other?

Want help with your book discussion group? Check out tips, advice, and all the ways the Library can help support your group!

OTHER RESOURCES:

The Nolan Show audio interview with Phaedra Patrick
Publisher’s Weekly book review
Phaedra Patrick’s official author website
LitLovers discussion guide
“Why I Write” article by Phaedra Patrick

READALIKES:

A Man Called Ove book coverA Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman

Meet Me at the Museum book coverMeet Me at the Museum
by Anne Youngson

Staff Picks: Andrea’s Selections of the Day

picture of Andrea

We asked Teen Librarian Andrea which books she’s recommending today.

She chose a combination of mysteries, thrillers and realistic fiction, with secrets and suspense aplenty.

 

 

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Sadie hasn’t had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she’s been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water. But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie’s entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister’s killer to justice and hits the road following a few meager clues to find him.

Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

The story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father’s disappearance. At the center of the Dunbar family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge—for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle. The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome?

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson

Monday Charles is missing, and only Claudia seems to notice. Claudia and Monday have always been inseparable—more sisters than friends. So when Monday doesn’t turn up for the first day of school, Claudia’s worried. When she doesn’t show for the second day, or second week, Claudia knows that something is wrong. Now Claudia needs her best—and only—friend more than ever. But Monday’s mother refuses to give Claudia a straight answer, and Monday’s sister April is even less help. No one seems to remember the last time they saw Monday. How can a teenage girl just vanish without anyone noticing that she’s gone?

Books: Readalikes for Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty

Nine Perfect Strangers book cover

 

Are you on the hold list for, or have you just finished, Liane Moriarty’s new book, Nine Perfect Strangers? The story of nine people who all travel to the same remote health spa and find their lives mixing and overlapping in unexpected ways is one book everybody’s talking about. If you are looking for a novel with a similar flavor, try one of these readalikes!

 

 

 

A Week in Winter book coverIf you liked the large cast, resort-like locale, and character-driven plot – Maeve Binchy’s Irish tale, A Week in Winter.

Stoneybridge is a small town on the west coast of Ireland where all the families know one another. Chicky Starr decides to take an old, decaying mansion set high on the cliffs overlooking the windswept Atlantic Ocean and turn it into a restful place for a holiday by the sea. After the renovations she welcomes the first guests to Stone House’s big warm kitchen, log fires, and understated elegant bedrooms. John, the American movie star, thinks he has arrived incognito; Winnie and Lillian, who are forced into taking a holiday together; Nicola and Henry, a husband and wife who have been shaken by seeing too much death practicing medicine; Anders, who hates his father’s business, but has a real talent for music; Miss Nell Howe, a retired schoolteacher, who criticizes everything and leaves a day early, much to everyone’s relief; the Walls, who are disappointed to have won this second-prize holiday in a contest where first prize was Paris; and Freda, the librarian, who is afraid of her own psychic visions.

 

The Nest book coverIf you liked the flawed and relatable charactersThe Nest by Cynthia Sweeney

Every family has its problems. But even among the most troubled, the Plumb family stands out as spectacularly dysfunctional. Years of simmering tensions finally reach a breaking point on an unseasonably cold afternoon in New York City as Melody, Beatrice, and Jack Plumb gather to confront their charismatic and reckless older brother, Leo, freshly released from rehab. Months earlier, an inebriated Leo got behind the wheel of a car with a 19-year-old waitress as his passenger. The ensuing accident has endangered the Plumbs’ joint trust fund, “The Nest”, which they are months away from finally receiving. Meant by their deceased father to be a modest midlife supplement, the Plumb siblings have watched The Nest’s value soar along with the stock market and have been counting on the money to solve a number of self-inflicted problems.

 

The Ship of Brides book coverIf you liked the theme of people thrown together in a remote location, with hidden backstories and rendezvous, and a connection to AustraliaThe Ship of Brides by Jojo Moyes

1946. World War II has ended and all over the world, young women are beginning to fulfill the promises made to the men they wed in wartime. In Sydney, Australia, four women join 650 other war brides on an extraordinary voyage to England–aboard HMS Victoria, which still carries not just arms and aircraft but a thousand naval officers. Rules are strictly enforced, from the aircraft carrier’s captain down to the lowliest young deckhand. But the men and the brides will find their lives intertwined despite the Navy’s ironclad sanctions. And for Frances Mackenzie, the complicated young woman whose past comes back to haunt her far from home, the journey will change her life in ways she never could have predicted–forever.

 

Siracusa book coverIf you liked the darker secrets, plot developments and psychological explorationsSiracusa by Delia Ephron

New Yorkers Michael, a famous writer, and Lizzie, a journalist, travel to Italy with their friends from Maine—Finn; his wife, Taylor; and their daughter, Snow. “From the beginning,” says Taylor, “it was a conspiracy for Lizzie and Finn to be together.” Told Rashomon-style in alternating points of view, the characters expose and stumble upon lies and infidelities, past and present. Snow, ten years old and precociously drawn into a far more adult drama, becomes the catalyst for catastrophe as the novel explores collusion and betrayal in marriage. Set on the sun-drenched coast of the Ionian Sea.

 

MPPL Staff Favorites of 2018

animated pictureTake a moment to reflect: what did you love this year?

As 2018 is drawing to a close, MPPL staff took time to look back on everything they watched, read, listened to, and played throughout the year in order to choose some of their top favorites. With 32 staff members sharing, you’re bound to find plenty to add to your own reading, listening, and watching lists!

 

Picture of ErinBook: Theft by Finding
by David Sedaris
Book: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
by Michelle McNamara
Book: Peter and Ernesto
by Graham Annable
picture of AndreaBook: The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo
Book: Moxie
by Jennifer Mathieu
Book: Leah on the Offbeat
by Becky Albertalli
Picture of ClaireBook: The Girl Who Smiled Beads 
by Clemantine Wamariya and Elizabeth Weil
Book: The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row 
by Anthony Ray Hinton
picture of ChelseaAudiobook: Baby Teeth
by Zoje Stage
Graphic Novel: Black Hammer, Vol. 1: Secret Origins
by Jeff Lemire
DVD: Legion: Season 1
picture of AngelaBook: Homegoing
by Yaa Gyasi
Book: Educated
by Tara Westover
Book: The Hating Game

by Sally Thorne
Picture of JessicaBook: Lady Q: The Rise and Fall of A Latin Queen
by Reymundo Sanchez and Sonia Rodriguez
DVD: Acrimony
Book: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine
by Gail Honeyman
Picture of MaryBook: The Great Alone
by Kristin Hannah
Book: The Feather Thief
by Kirk Johnson
Book: Astral Weeks
by Ryan H. Walsh
Picture of KeldaBook: The One-in-a-Million Boy
by Monica Wood
DVD: Tulip Fever
Audiobook: Lily and the Octopus
by Steven Rowley
Picture of CaitlinBook: Into the Drowning Deep
by Mira Grant
DVD: Love, Simon
Book: Jane, Unlimited
by Kristin Cashore

 

Picture of ChrisBook: Mortal Engines
by Philip Reeve
DVD: Incredibles 2
Book: How the Grinch Stole Christmas
by Dr. Seuss
picture of DanBook: The Necronomicon
by H.P. Lovecraft
Book: 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed
by Eric H. Cline
Book: Astrophysics for People in a Hurry 
by Neil DeGrasse Tyson
picture of KarenBook: The Woman in the Window
by A. J. Finn
Book: Hum If You Don’t Know the Words
by Bianca Marais
Book: The Fallen
by David Baldacci

 

Picture of CathleenBook: How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?
by N.K. Jemisin
Graphic Novel: My Boyfriend Is a Bear
by Pamela Ribon
DVD: Eighth Grade
Picture of FrankBook: All My Sons
by Arthur Miller
Book: The Secret History of Vladimir Nabokov
by Andrea Pitzer
Book: The Trial
by Franz Kafka
Book: Front Desk 
by Kelly Yang
Book: One of Us Is Lying
by Karen M. McManus
Book: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Picture of DeniseBook: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Audiobook: If We Were Villains
by M. L. Rio
Book: One Day in December
by Josie Silver
picture of Mary Jane Book: Walk Until Sunrise
by J. J. Maze
Book: A Gentleman in Moscow
by Amor Towles
Book: A Man Called Ove 
by Fredrik Backman

 

Picture of JohnDVD: Leave No Trace
Graphic Novel: Berlin
by Jason Lutes
DVD: The Americans: The Complete Final Season
picture of Jennifer ABook: I Am Princess X
by Cherie Priest
CD: Reputation
by Taylor Swift
Book: Haunted Ground
by Erin Hart
picture of JanineBook: Becoming
by Michelle Obama
Audiobook: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told
by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
Book: Tin Man
by Sarah Winman
Audiobook: The Second Mrs. Hockaday
by Susan Rivers
Book: Salt to the Sea
by Ruta Sepetys
Book: Spinning Silver
by Naomi Novik
Picture of DonnaBook: Behold the Dreamers
by Imbolo Mbue
Book: The Copenhagen Affair
by Amulya Malladi
Book: Anansi Boys
by Neil Gaiman
picture of CatherineBook: Senlin Ascends 
by Josiah Bancroft
Book: Into the Drowning Deep 
by Mira Grant
Book: The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle 
by Stuart Turton
picture of emilyBook: At Home: A Short History of a Private Life
by Bill Bryson
Book: Melmoth
by Sarah Perry
Book: The Mothers
by Brit Bennett
Picture of JoeGraphic Novel: The Black Hammer: Vol. 1, Secret Origins
by Jeff Lemire
Graphic Novel: Hot Dog Taste Test  
by Lisa Hanawalt
Graphic Novel: Royal City: Vol 1, Next of Kin
by Jeff Lemire
Picture of DonnaDVD: Wyeth: The Life of Andrew Wyeth in Bold Strokes
Book: In the Midst of Winter
by Isabel Allende
Book: Identicals
by Elin Hilderbrand

 

picture of MariaBook: Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine 
by Gail Honeyman
Book: Hillbilly Elegy 
by J. D. Vance
Book: Mrs. Dalloway
by Virginia Woolf
Mariel photoBook: The Secret History
by Donna Tartt
Book: Circe
by Madeline Miller
Book: The Raven Cycle Series
by Maggie Stiefvater

 

Picture of DaleBook: We Sold Our Souls
by Grady Hendrix
Book: Little Heaven
by Nick Cutter
Book: The Family Plot
by Cherie Priest
Book: The Art of Gathering
by Priya Parker
Book: The Book of Joy

by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Book: The Distant Marvels
by Chantel Acevedo

 


Want more? Take a look at what staff chose in 2014 and 2015 and 2017 as their favorites.

We would love to hear from you!
Write to us on Facebook or Twitter and share what your own favorites this year were. If you’re interested in personalized reading, watching, and/or listening suggestions… Ask!

Audiobooks: Family Friendly Stories for Winter Drives

If you are about to pack up a car full of tweens, teens and adults for a winter’s journey, consider taking along one of these audiobooks to accompany you and keep everyone occupied!

ender's game book coverEnder’s Game
by Orson Scott Card

Andrew “Ender” Wiggin thinks he is playing computer simulated war games; he is, in fact, engaged in something far more desperate. The result of genetic experimentation, Ender may be the military genius Earth desperately needs in a war against an alien enemy seeking to destroy all human life. The only way to find out is to throw Ender into ever harsher training, to chip away and find the diamond inside, or destroy him utterly. Ender Wiggin is six years old when it begins. He will grow up fast.

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid book coverThe Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid
by Bill Bryson

Bill Bryson was born in the middle of the American century—1951—in the middle of the United States—Des Moines, Iowa—in the middle of the largest generation in American history—the baby boomers. As one of the best and funniest writers alive, he is perfectly positioned to mine his memories of a totally all-American childhood for 24-carat memoir gold. Like millions of his generational peers, Bill Bryson grew up with a rich fantasy life as a superhero. In his case, he ran around his house and neighborhood with an old football jersey with a thunderbolt on it and a towel about his neck that served as his cape, leaping tall buildings in a single bound and vanquishing awful evildoers (and morons)—in his head—as “The Thunderbolt Kid.”

The Golden Compass book coverThe Golden Compass
by Philip Pullman

Lyra is rushing to the cold, far North, where witch clans and armored bears rule. North, where the Gobblers take the children they steal–including her friend Roger. North, where her fearsome uncle Asriel is trying to build a bridge to a parallel world. Can one small girl make a difference in such great and terrible endeavors? This is Lyra: a savage, a schemer, a liar, and as fierce and true a champion as Roger or Asriel could want–but what Lyra doesn’t know is that to help one of them will be to betray the other.

Standing in the Rainbow book coverStanding in the Rainbow
by Fannie Flagg

The time- 1946–2000. he place- Elmwood Springs, Missouri. Right in the middle of everywhere, which could be anywhere. World War II has ended and the joyous transitions to peace are being — mostly — embraced. Bobby Smith, ten is the effervescent son of the well-known radio hostess Neighbour Dorothy, who broadcasts every day from her living room, via the power in her backyard, to an eager, and at times lonely audience. And, meet the Oatman Family Southern Gospel Singers at a pharmaceutical convention in Memphis, where they blow the place away; Hamm Sparks, a super-salesman everyone likes and trusts, who soon sells all of Missouri; and the phenomena known as the Sunset Club, Dinner on the Ground and the Funeral King.

Summerland
by Michael Chabon

Ethan Feld is bad at baseball. Hopeless, even. But when his father mysteriously disappears, Ethan is recruited to save him and the world by traveling the baseball-obsessed Summerlands to stop Coyote, the trickster, from unmaking existence. With help from a ragtag group of friends he meets along the way, Ethan must not only find his father and stop Coyote, but also master his position on the field.

The Book Thief book coverThe Book Thief
by Markus Zusak

Trying to make sense of the horrors of World War II, Death relates the story of Liesel–a young German girl whose book-stealing and story-telling talents help sustain her family and the Jewish man they are hiding, as well as their neighbors.