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REVIEW: The Curious Charms of Arthur Pepper by Phaedra Patrick

SYNOPSIS: 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.

GENRE: Fiction, Contemporary

RATING: ★★☆☆☆ / 2 frustrating stars.

REVIEW: This was a tough one. I wanted to like the book, I really did. The premise is so full of promise and yet, as a friend of mine so eloquently summed it up during our book club discussion, it was a book of missed opportunities. No spoilers, I promise. There are a number of detailed moments and loose ends that I could expound on to give you a clearer picture as to just why I didn't like this book, but I will refrain in order as to not spoil it for those who would like to still give it a try. The beginning of the book starts well enough, but it was lacking a spark, the writing fell flat. One of my biggest issues began with the dialogue between characters. It was so stilted and unrealistic, there was no natural flow. Added to that, every character sounded the same, with the same patterns and absolutely proper grammar. At times it would come across as the first draft of a play, before actors would actually read it out loud and then everyone would realize just how stiff it sounded. Perhaps this next point is just a failing of my own, but the main character is a man, but it was very obvious that a woman was writing his life, and it bothered me. Beyond that, in terms of Arthur the character, his mannerisms and thinking were all over the place. By that I mean that at times he seemed 90 years old and at other times 40 years old. It was a strange whiplash. All of that I would have been happy to go along with however, if we had a better development and story arcs with the secondary characters. They would flit in and out, some with seemingly little purpose, causing me to wonder why they were added at all. I kept waiting for these people to somehow be connected through Arthur at the end. There were two very specific instances where I thought the author missed enormous opportunities (once again, to avoid spoilers, I won't share more). So by the end of the book, with all of these discarded characters that have been left by the wayside, it was very unsatisfying. Lastly, I didn't see a big change in Arthur. Along the way, he constantly told people how he was growing as a person, but other than getting out of the house, I just didn't see it. In fact, I found him to be a very selfish character. He was so focused on himself that when, towards the end of the book, when he was given a couple moments to truly show growth and thought and compassion for another person, he acted in a manner that was entirely inconsiderate. In the end, I was disappointed and frustrated with this book. However, it did make for a lively book club discussion, so there's that.

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