Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Things We Keep - Book Review

Anna is not yet forty years old when she is diagnosed with the same early-onset Alzheimer's disease that killed her mother years ago. As her memories and cognitive abilities deteriorate, Anna and her twin brother decide it is best if she is checked in to an assisted-living center. The one they finally choose, Rosalind House, is a high-end place with very few residents that just happen to include another "young" patient--Luke who also has a degenerative brain disease. Anna and Luke begin a relationship that makes their time happier but worries their respective families.

Because of unfortunate family circumstances, Eve is desperate for a job. She practically begs for the cook job at Rosalind House. She is just being introduced to the residents when Anna begs Eve to help her. As Eve gets to know Anna, she is able to come to understand just how she can help.

I really enjoyed Sally Hepworth's novel The Secrets of Midwives last year. Hepworth is a skilled writer and spins a good story. I was happy to have the opportunity to read her newest novel The Things We Keep. Novels about early on-set Alzheimer's disease have been popular lately. I haven't read Still Alice yet but I have read We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas and The Day We Met by Rowan Coleman. Throw in other novels dealing with other degenerative diseases or life changing accidents like Five Days Left and Me Before You, and it feels like a subject that I've read a lot about in the past few years.

I wanted The Things We Keep to bring a new perspective and in many ways it did. I appreciated the author's tone and story. Without giving anything away, this tale brought a new angle to the discussion and it was refreshing. It challenges perceptions and preconceived notions about disease, life and death.

The problem with this particular novel, for me, was that there were too many things going on. It was ambitious. The characters started out strong but as the story went along, the ending felt rushed and incomplete. Clearly, as Anna's brain deteriorated it would be difficult for her to continue narrating her own story but the reader is suddenly pulled in to side plots/tangents with lesser characters. I became less and less interested. The level of emotion one expects from a story like this was lacking.

Though there were issues, The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth tells an interesting story and adds a new dimension to the discussion. For every person that suffers from this disease, there is a different story.

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth is published by St. Martin's Press and released on January 19, 2016.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Things We Keep. All opinions are my own. No compensation was received.**

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