Title: 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. 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!
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