Henry Quantum has several thoughts going through his head at any given time, so it’s no surprise when he forgets something very important—specifically, a Christmas gift for his wife, which he realizes two days before Christmas. Henry sets off in search of the perfect present for her: a bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume. But much like Henry’s ever-wandering mind, his quest takes him in different and unexpected directions, including running into the former love of his life, Daisy. His wife, meanwhile, unhappy in her marriage, is hiding a secret of her own. And Daisy, who has made the unsettling choice of leaving her husband to strike out on her own, finds herself questioning whether she and Henry belong together after all.
An “at times funny, at times profound” (Kirkus Reviews) debut from author Pepper Harding shows how the seemingly insignificant events of one single day can change our lives forever—perhaps, if we’re lucky, for the better.
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About the Author
Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for The Heart of Henry Quantum includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Middle-management advertising executive Henry Quantum has many thoughts going through his head at any given moment. With his mind racing from physics to philosophy, it’s no surprise that when December 23 comes around, Henry has forgotten to purchase a Christmas gift for his wife, Margaret. He sets off on a quest to purchase the perfect present: a bottle of Channel No. 5 from Macy’s. But diversions abound as he makes his way through the streets of San Francisco, including a surprise encounter with his former lover, Daisy. Margaret, meanwhile, is on her own quest to meet her current lover for a weekday tryst outside the city. And Daisy, newly separated from her husband, finds herself wondering if she and Henry were meant to be together after all. The Heart of Henry Quantum illustrates the difference a day can make when fate steps in.
Topics & Questions for Discussion
1. Over lunch, Henry claims that he doesn’t demand anything of Margaret, prompting Daisy to respond, “That’s because you don’t love her.” (pg. 67) Do you think that’s true? Do you think Margaret loves Henry?
2. Henry claims that “this constant monologue, this incessant vocalizing of every moronic scintilla of thought,” had only started after he left Daisy and went back to Margaret (pg. 69). Why do you think that is?
3. How does each of the main characters feel about their extramarital affairs? Do they feel guilty? Why or why not?
4. Henry says Daisy gives him “false hope.” Why does he make this claim, and how does it differ from his relationship with Margaret? How does “false hope” factor into the story and impact the decisions each of the characters make throughout the book?
5. How and why does the balance of power shift over time in Henry’s relationships with Margaret and Daisy?
6. Why do you think Margaret can forgive her brother Arthur for everything and her husband for nothing? (pg. 139)
7. After leaving Henry at lunch, Daisy realizes that she loved Henry, “not for what he did for her but for what he allowed her to do for herself.” (pg. 218–19) How does that compare to his relationship with Margaret?
8. What role does Denise play in the book? Why do you think the author chose to end Denise’s after-hours encounter with Henry without immediately revealing the truth about what happened? How did the outcome compare to what you thought happened?
9. Henry refers to several physics terms throughout the book. How do they help convey the book’s themes?
10. Why do you think the author chose to set the book during Christmastime in San Francisco? How does the city itself impact the events of the day?
11. Why do you think the author chose to include the scene with the bridge jumper?
12. What significance does Chanel No. 5 hold for Henry?
13. Do we have a “right to love?” All the characters are searching for love outside the boundaries of marriage and convention. Is this ethical? What is the author saying about the limits of love?
14. At the end of the book, Henry confronts his future. What do you think happens next?
15. Daisy and Margaret have two very different pictures of Henry Quantum. Which is right? How do we make decisions about others? How do we know our impressions truly reflect who the other person is?
16. Daisy is brokenhearted over Henry. She knows she discarded something precious and feels it can never be reclaimed. Is she right? Do you think it’s possible to recover something that is lost? To begin again?
17. Throughout the book we learn a lot about what’s inside the head of Henry Quantum. Why do you think the author chose the title The Heart of Henry Quantum?
Enhance Your Book Club
1. As Henry makes his way through San Francisco, many thoughts come to his mind. Relive Henry’s experience walking through the city by observing a central location in your own community and writing down your thoughts in stream-of-consciousness style.
2. Chanel No. 5 holds particular significance for Henry, just as teddy bears have a particular significance for Daisy. Have each member of the group discuss a special gift or product that has special meaning for them. What do these objects represent for them?
3. Henry enjoys reading Zen koans and offers an example of one in the book. (pg. 81) Look up the definition of a koan, and have each member of the group find an example they like in a book or online to share with the other members of your book club.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3.5 stars The Heart of Henry Quantum is the first book by an American author who writes under the pseudonym, Pepper Harding. Four years ago, Henry Quantum’s brief but intense extra-marital affair with (wife and mother of two) Daisy Hillman, ended. Now, two days before Christmas, Henry sets out to buy a Christmas gift for Margaret, his wife of almost fourteen years, something that has become imperative as the proximity of the holiday dawns on him. As Henry walks down San Francisco’s city streets in the direction of Macy’s with plans to purchase a bottle of Chanel No 5, he is regularly distracted. Then he runs into Daisy. It’s a meeting that turns his day upside down, especially when she reveals what has happened since they last met. Meanwhile, Margaret has set off to meet her lover out at Marin…. This novel is beautifully written and should have been a delightful read. Unfortunately, rather than being instantly endearing, Henry comes across as flakey and rather frustrating. It soon becomes apparent how and why his marriage with Margaret has stalled and staled. There is plenty of philosophising from Henry, to be expected given his philosophy/creative writing double major in college, as well as a good deal of rationalisation from Margaret. The travelogue of San Francisco, the mention of streets and landmarks, which will certainly appeal to readers familiar with the city, is likely to fall flat with readers who have never been there. That, and the sweet ending fail to redeem what could have been a great novel.
I really wanted to like this book a lot. I loved Ove a lot (which is what this book was compared to). But this book was a real downer for me. Henry was the best he could be and I felt so sorry for him. I think he was a nice guy, but listening to his inner thoughts just didn't cut it for me. His wife, so boring, I've already forgot her name, she hates Henry and is having an affair. Then there is Daisy, the girl that Henry let go and the love of his life.It's just agonizing and just down right dull. I think the writing of this book is good, I just think the topic and story is really, really boring. These characters have nothing to thrill any reader and nothing worth reading. I'm terribly sorry to say that to that to the author. I know how hard you worked. But when I read a book, I want to be entertained. I don't want to hear about other people's problems and that was pretty much what this book was about. It should have been named "Oh Woe is Me". Thanks Gallery Books and Net Gallery for providing me a free gallery in exchange for a free e-galley in exchange for an honest review.
The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding is a so-so tale of a love quadrilateral. It is December 23 and Henry Quantum, aka Bones, needs to find a Christmas gift for Margaret, his wife of 15 years. His plan is to purchase a bottle of Chanel No. 5. Henry is very easily distracted by everything and his inner monologue often sends him off in different directions or has him missing his goal. When he leaves the office after a meeting in search of the perfume, he runs into an old flame, Daisy, who he had an affair with years earlier. Daisy is now divorced and misses Bones. In the meantime Margaret has taken the day off to spend it with her lover, Peter. The book is set during one day, December 23, and told from the points of view of Henry, Margaret, and Daisy. While there are parts, bits and pieces, of this novel that are charming, and the setting is realistic and brilliantly described, mostly I found The Heart of Henry Quantum annoying and tedious. I began to dislike Henry only after a few pages. Sometimes following the stream-of-consciousness-inner-dialogue of a character can work, but, alas, not in this case. even if some of his inner thoughts were amusing, I ended up thinking that Henry needed some therapy to learn some good focusing skills in order to get from point A to B in one smooth line. Recording all his internal musing over a wide variety of things went too far. When the focus switched to Margaret's point of view, I found her an even a more irritating character. Her lover, Peter, is even worse, but his appearance is brief. I had to agree with Margaret, however, that the ever-on-going wandering of Henry's thoughts was aggravating. Then we get to Daisy, the only even remotely likeable character in this whole mess. But, as all these people are/were married and having affairs, they sort of set themselves up for me to lose a vast amount of respect for them right at the start. I might have been able to roll with it if I liked Henry and wished him well. So, in the end the writing is good, if you can stomach all the stream-of consciousness from Henry. The plot is simple, a day in the life of these people. The characters, well, they are not very appealing. The only thing that pulled the rating up a bit for me was the ending, which I thought was a nice touch. Disclosure: My advanced reading copy was courtesy of the publisher for review purposes.
I am not sure what to say about this book. The other reviewers and ratings are all over the place and I understand why. This book takes place over one day, however a lot of the story is made up of remembrances so it seems like there was a lot of time and a lot more happening than there really was. The story is told by three narrators, Henry Quantum, his wife Margaret and his ex-lover Daisy. It is about relationships, life in general and making decisions. It was not very exciting and there were a few times I almost put it down. I enjoyed parts of the story, especially Daisy. She was really the only character I liked. I found Margaret selfish and self-centered and Henry was way too much of a pushover who got into the position he was in because he was afraid to let anyone down and make the decisions necessary. It was an okay read and the ending did bring everything together in a satisfactory way, which is the only reason I rated it 3 stars. The publisher generously provided me with a copy of this book via Netgalley.