Arthur Pepper is 69 years old; his wife Miriam has been dead for a year. He has a routine to his days: he wears the same clothes, eats the same breakfast (at the same time every morning), and hides in his house to avoid Bernadette, a neighbor who brings sausage rolls and pies to Arthur every week. His children rarely call; Lucy is a teacher and lives in the same town as Arthur; his son Dan lives in Australia and was too busy to even come back for Miriam's funeral. It's a lonely and colorless life.
Arthur decides on the one year anniversary of Miriam's death that it's time to clear out her closet. In her boot, he finds a charm bracelet that he's never seen before. It is obviously of high quality gold with delicate charms: an elephant, a ring, a flower, a book, a heart, a tiger, a gold thimble, and a paint palette. Why didn't Miriam ever wear this around Arthur? What do the charms mean? Arthur begins his quest to understand what each charm means and where they came from. He learns that the Miriam he was married to for 40 years had a colorful and eventful life before she settled down to a quiet married life and motherhood. But was she happy with the life she chose with Arthur? Did she have any regrets?
Arthur steps out of his comfort zone in many ways during his adventures to uncover the meaning behind the charm bracelet. He's a deeply thoughtful person who thinks back on his behavior with Miriam over the years, and how he could have done things differently. It is poignant when he realizes the mistakes he made and how his wife was always graceful and kind no matter what Arthur did or didn't do. Arthur is a likable character who isn't afraid to reflect, accept blame, and change. Anyone who is in a relationship nowadays understands the person they know had a life full of experiences, places, and people before the life they have now. We know that, but do we really think about who they knew, where they went, what they experienced without us? How it shaped who they are, and why they made the choices they made? Do you share it all with your loved ones, or do you keep a bit back just for you?
Rating: 7/10 for a delightful novel about moving on from the death of a spouse, and discovering a bit about their past that helps you embrace life after loss. A sweetly poignant tale. It would make a great movie.
Available in hardcover and e-book.