The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth
Publishing Date: 8th September 2016
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 352
Genre: Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)
Just because you can’t remember, doesn’t mean you can’t love . . .
Anna Forster is thirty-eight years old and has started to suffer from the early stages of Alzheimer’s. She knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to an assisted living facility. But best can still hurt. What she also knows is that there’s just one other resident her age at the facility – Luke.
As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to all that’s left. What remains are her feelings for Luke. Before long the pair fall in love, despite the forces that are set against them.
But when a tragic incident occurs, Luke and Anna’s families decide to separate them. There is one person at the facility who can help the pair, but only if she’s willing to risk everything for them . . .
“The Things We Keep” by Sally Hepworth is one of the many books dealing with dementia that I’ve had a pleasure to read. However, mostly when we think Alzheimer’s disease we think about older people. This time though the author tells us a story about 38 – year – old Anna, who has been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer. I must admit, even with my whole knowledge I didn’t know that this disease can afflict even so young people, and I think it hit me so much because Anna is around my age, and I could relate to her on many levels. And also, personally I think that it is one of the most awful diseases and it’s one of my biggest fears, that it can afflict someone in my family.
I haven’t read Ms Hepworth’s previous book “The Secrets of Midwives”, even though it is on my never – ending TBR pile, so I didn’t really know what to expect from her new release. I’ll admit, I started to read “The Things We Keep” a little reluctantly, not sure if I am in a mood for such a story, but immediately, IMMEDIATELY after starting reading it, I was drawn in and hooked and didn’t want to put the book down. It turned out that “The Things We Keep” is incredibly sad story, but it is also incredibly uplifting and full of brilliantly funny one – liners. Well, Anna herself had a fantastic sense of humour, she was so cynical and so intelligent, and seeing her deteriorate made it all even sadder. The author has truly perfectly mixed here sadness with humour, sorrow with happiness.
The story introduces us to Anna, 38 years old, who’s just been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s. As the disease is progressing quickly, Anna’s twin brother decides that it’s best for her to go to Rosalind House, and one of the reason of choosing this home is the fact that Luke is living there – Luke is 41 and also suffering with a dementia. They are the youngest residents there and they quickly develop feelings to each other. But – are they real feelings? Can people with dementia feel love if they can forget the person next day? Should it be at all allowed to carry on their friendship/relationship? So many questions, so many important and thought – provoking questions there, and what I really enjoyed was the fact that the reader was allowed to see both sides, to see how complicated and complex it was, how awkward the position for all involved.
The characters in this story are unforgettable, and I don’t only mean the main characters, but also the residents of the Rosalind House. I was impressed with the way they all dealt with the difficult things that happened in their lives. At first I was assuming that the book is only about Anna so I was a little surprised when it introduced Eve to us, however there wouldn’t be this story without Eve and her daughter Clementine. Eve is left by her husband to deal with the mess he put them into and after living a life without financial problems she needs to find work, pronto, and so she’s forced to take a job at the home, where she learns Anna and Luke and their story. It turns out that Eve will be much more than a cook in this novel, as she becomes a friend to the home residents. However, I think this is Anna’s voice that is the most distinctive and strong in this story, and the author has done a brilliant job with getting into Anna’s head, into telling her tale with so much feeling and emotions. The way she described Anna and her slow (or quick!) deterioration was incredibly realistic and my heart truly went out to her. The author has also perfectly captured all the changes in Anna, such as forgetting the words, situations, people showing that for Anna herself it was a strange new world. There were confusions and frustrations involved, which is so natural in such situation, and the author beautifully and with a lot of feelings put it into words. And I really appreciate that we were given the possibility to see as many points of view as possible, those of the patients’, as well as their family members or caregivers, and we could agree – or not – with them. She shows not only the feelings of dementia patients, but also how it is for their family, seeing their beloved ones disappearing, but still being able to love and care.
The book alternates between Anna, Eve and Clementine. Yes, Clementine. She must also deal with problems, with ostracism and exclusion and it was heart – breaking to see how brave this 7 year – old – girl is. It is also interesting how the story starts in the past with Anna being first moved to Rosalind House and then slowly moving forward, with Eve’s point of view that starts in the present, when Anna’s disease is already progressed. It shows Anna first as a full of life, sharp woman and takes us on the journey of slowly forgetting words, faces, family, forming thoughts, being disoriented.
“The Things We Keep” is about love. It’s about losing people that you love, through death or through a disease that take their memories away, and I am really not sure what is worse. This is also a very beautiful, poignant love story showing that love knows no boundaries. It is about coping, caring, giving, developing the unselfish side to you. The feelings in this story, the way the characters acted and reacted felt so realistic and genuine and often I was on the verge of tears. It bothered me so, so much that such a young, great, sharp woman as Anna has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and it broke my heart seeing how quickly it develops. It’s truly this kind of book that makes you think, makes you cheer the characters on and fall for them. It is full of emotions, even the rawest ones, and written in an honest way, without beating around the bush, showing how it really is and what people truly feel. I enjoyed every single moment of it – and I highly recommend this book to you!