With huge heart, humor, and a compassionate understanding of human nature, Sally Hepworth delivers a page-turning novel about the power of love to grow and endure even when faced with the most devastating of obstacles. You won’t forget The Things We Keep.
Anna Forster is only thirty-eight years old, but her mind is slowly slipping away from her. Armed only with her keen wit and sharp-eyed determination, she knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. But Anna has a secret: she does not plan on staying. She also knows there's just one another resident who is her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.
Eve Bennett, suddenly thrust into the role of single mother to her bright and vivacious seven-year-old daughter, finds herself putting her culinary training to use at Rosalind house. When she meets Anna and Luke, she is moved by the bond the pair has forged. But when a tragic incident leads Anna's and Luke's families to separate them, Eve finds herself questioning what she is willing to risk to help them. Eve has her own secrets, and her own desperate circumstances that raise the stakes even higher.
Hepworth's second novel (after The Secrets of Midwives) explores issues of self-determination and identity through an unconventional tearjerker of a love story. Diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer's at 39, Anna has made the difficult decision to move into a residential care facility. Though she's mostly surrounded by senior citizens, there's one other self-described "young person, old mind": Luke, who suffers from frontotemporal dementia. The two immediately bond over their unlikely shared circumstance, and eventually their friendship moves into romance. But as Anna's condition worsens, the question of whether she is capable of relationships, or of falling in love, comes into question, and her family insists that she and Luke be kept apart. The home's new cook, Eve, is charmed by Luke and Anna's tale of star-crossed love, and she vows to help them at any cost but her understanding of the potential dangers is incomplete, and facilitating their romance could put more than just her job in jeopardy. The story's nonlinear structure, designed to mimic Anna's disorientation, cleverly obscures a few reveals that color the reader's perception of the dilemma at hand, and while none of these reveals are particularly surprising, they're no less heartbreaking. A supporting cast of quirky old folks and Eve's precocious daughter add levity to a poignant and nuanced story.
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Not my cup of tea!
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth is one of the most boring books I have read this year (and I have read some sleepers recently). The Things We Keep tells the story of Anna Forster whose mind has early onset Alzheimer’s at the age of 38. After an incident at her brother’s home (fire and her nephew), she has decided that it is best for everyone if she goes into a home. Rosalind House is an assisted-living facility for seniors and they specialize in Alzheimer’s patients. Anna, though, does not plan on being at Rosalind House for long.
Eve Bennett is now a single mother (daughter, Clementine is 7) and has to go back to work (her husband, Richard did a Ponzi scheme and then killed himself). Eve graduated from the institute of Culinary Education in New York. She finds a job as chef at Rosalind House and it comes with perks (she gets to clean and help with residents in spare time with no extra pay). Eve is touched by Anna and her closeness to the other young resident, Luke (he has a different form of dementia that involves words). Anna and Luke have formed an attachment, but their families do not approve. Eve does not agree with the family’s decision to keep these two apart and tries to rectify it (Eve likes to stick her nose in everyone’s business). Is Eve willing to risk her job to help Anna and Luke? Will Anna succeed in her goal to end her life?
The Things We Keep is told from three different point of views (Anna’s, Eve, and Clementine’s). I found the writing to be very disjointed. The book also jumps around too much (different times, different people). There is too much going on in this book. The writer seemed determined to introduce the reader to every resident of Rosalind House (there are too many of them). I was also shocked at the treatment of the residents at Rosalind House. I would not let this place look after my pets, much less a relative (horrible care). I hope real assisted living facilities are not like Rosalind House. The story, I believe, is about how love endures no matter what (but it did not really come across in the book). I did not enjoy reading The Things We Keep (it reminded me of a very bad soap opera). The novel moved at a snail’s pace (maybe even slower) and it was not enjoyable to read. I give The Things We Keep 1 out of 5 stars (which means I really, really did not like the book).
I received a complimentary copy of The Things We Keep from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.