Book Club: The Things We Keep

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Author: Sally Hepworth
ISBN: 9781743535752
RRP: $29.99

The Things We Keep is the new novel by Sally Hepworth, bestselling author of The Secrets of Midwives. I think Hepworth is going to cement herself as a must read author for contemporary tales that are a little different and very thought provoking.

The Things We Keep is an interesting tale focusing on early onset Alzheimers, which seems to be getting a lot more of the spotlight in recent times. Dementia was always something you didn’t have to worry about until you were elderly but it seems to be striking people earlier, and more people are trying to shine a spotlight on it. This is not the first book I have read about the disease and I doubt it will be the last.

Anna Forster is a paramedic with an adventurous personality and a faltering memory, the story begins with us meeting her on her first day at Rosalind House, the assisted-living facility she has checked into to avoid becoming a burden on her twin brother Liam. Anna still remembers what it was like when her mother suffered early onset Alzheimers and she doesn’t want anyone to go through that because of her.

Much of the book is told from Anna’s perspective so the further we get into the story the more disjointed it sometimes seems, and though this was a little frustrating it worked beautifully for the story being told. Anna became a less reliable narrator as the story developed and that is in keeping with the decline in her memory.

Eve is our second narrator, she is a talented chef who has just had some major life changes that see her looking for a very position with unusual benefits. Eve is trying to do the best thing for her young daughter and it sees her taking on the position of cook at Rosalind House when their cook goes on maternity leave, she is also required for some cleaning in the short term and that means she is in quite close contact with the residents.

Rosalind House was selected for Anna because there is another resident of a a similar age. The residents at Rosalind House are typically elderly and still quite self sufficient which makes Anna even more of an anomaly in the facility so having someone her own age should help make the transition a little easier.

I felt for Anna, she was such an independent character with strong ideals and her mind made up about what should come next, the friendships she makes at Rosalind House see her re-evaluating her strong opinions and changing her view of the future.

Eve, too, sees a completely different side of life through her work at Rosalind House and her life will never be the same again. She is accustomed to cooking in expensive restaurants so it is quite a challenge to find herself cooking for the mostly elderly residents on a pretty tight food budget, which sees her need to change from the organic market to a discount food barn.

the things we keep

We also see a little bit from the perspective of Eve’s daughter Clementine, a precocious and gorgeous girl who is trying to navigate life in the wake of major upheaval. Almost everything in her life has changed and she’s faced with navigating a world she wasn’t prepared for. Spending a lot of time at Rosalind House sees her forming attachments with the residents which will help her cultivate the tools she needs to get through this challenging period of her life. She’s not having much fun at school and I couldn’t help but cheer her on and hope that she would be strong enough to deal with the unkind behaviour of children in her class.

Hepworth explores the power of love and happiness on our mental health while pointing out how important it is that we keep sight of what is important. Hearing someone talk down your loved ones is heartbreaking but there are ways to reduce their power to hurt you.

The Things We Keep demonstrates the power of the memory and the way in which we can hold onto what’s important and how it can affect our entire lives.

This was an interesting and engaging read that broke my heart. I am older than Anna and my memory is not fantastic but the idea of Alzheimer’s now is too concerning to actually contemplate. I’m too young for degenerative memory loss and I can’t imagine losing the memories of my kids and my family.

Hepworth writes hard hitting and realistic stories that could happen to any of us, she addresses issues from everyday life in a way that we wouldn’t necessarily have contemplated. Her career will be one to watch and I’m interested to see what she will tackle next time.

The Things We Keep is available now from Pan Macmillan and where all good books are sold.

You can follow Sally Hepworth on Facebook, her Website and Twitter.

Thanks to Pan Macmillan 10 of our Beauty and Lace Club Members will be reading The Things We Keep so please be aware there may be spoilers contained in the comments below.

10 thoughts on “Book Club: The Things We Keep

  1. I was delighted to be one of the selected reviewers for The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth and thank Beauty and Lace and Macmillan publishing for the opportunity.

    I can’t imagine how soul destroying it must be to find you have early onset Alzheimer’s. My Mum had Alzheimer’s but she was 85 when it took her from us mentally but not physically – Anna isn’t yet 40. Luke has a different form of Alzheimer’s which robs him of speech, making communication difficult. These young people are ending their lives in an assisted living facility surrounded by elderly people. Their love for one another forms much of the basis for the story.

    Eve Bennett comes into contact with Anna and Luke when she is forced to take a job as cook, for which she is trained and cleaner, which is way out of her comfort zone. Her life and that of her 7 year old daughter is turned upside down when her husband loses all their money and that of all his many clients. He then commits suicide rather than face jail. Eve is left to pick up the pieces and try to protect Clementine, her daughter, from the unpleasantness which follows.

    The Things We Keep interweaves the lives of Anna, Luke, Eve and Clementine along with the residents and staff of Rosalind House and the families of the characters over a period of time when Anna and Luke’s illnesses degenerate. The characters become interwoven with an involvement from Eve that goes far beyond what it should from an employee but she gets involved with the best of intentions.

    I really enjoyed the easy to read novel and the way the characters evolved but felt that there were part missing at times. One of the residents will turn 100 so Eve is asked to make a special cake, which she does but then we don’t hear about the party. The story is told in chapters with the telling being from Anna, Eve or Clementine and I did find it disjointed in parts. However I loved the way the relationships between the main characters and those they formed associations with was developed, with love and understanding. The way Clementine, at 7, copes with losing her beloved father and her beautiful home and has to endure such hateful associations at school is particularly well done. The characterisations are developed so that you feel a closeness with almost all of them

    I felt the way one of the elderly residents explained something to Eve sums up the book and title – “When you get to my age ….you don’t waste time with regrets. In the end, you just remember the moments of joy. When all is said and done, those are the things we keep.”

  2. I really got into this book and its characters. Being a carer for my own mother, with Alzheimers, I got an insight of what she goes through, mentally, with Anna’s character. Although my mother is 73 not 38 like Anna. Anna and Luke are both Alzheimers patients at Rosalind house, and are both the youngest there. They fall in love but have many obstacles in the way.
    The story is told by characters Anna, Eve and Clementine. Eve becomes a cook and cleaner at Rosalind house after her husbands cheats people off a lot of money and then commits suicide, leaving her unable to afford the luxurious lifestyle she was used to. She also believes in the strong bond between Luke and Anna, when many are against them. Then there is Clementine, who is 7 and also Eve’s daughter, she is left confused and angry. Unable to comprehend why someone that she loved so much could do such an awful thing to lots of people. Although she has her struggles,she finds time and enjoys to entertain the elderly at the home with her dancing and other antics.
    The whole book had me engrossed for hours at a time.

  3. This is my first review and I have to say I loved this story I could not put it down.

    First there is Anna and her twin brother Jack, Anna has younger onset Alzheimers and Jack is left as her power of attorney trying to make all the right decisions for his sister and to keep her safe. Anna agrees to move into a Residential Aged Care facility and Jack finds Rosalind house and chooses this facility as there is another young patient in there named Luke. To read about Annas thoughts and the confusion going on in her head is a real eye opener to what people with dementia go through, how frustrating their days can be the things they can remember and the things they cant.

    Then their is Eve and her sweet daughter Clementine, Eve is forced to go back to work after some bad dealings by her husband, it tells her story of starting over and working and shares the bond she builds with the residents of Rosalind house especially Anna. It portrays how much and how quickly someones life and routine can change because of somebody else’s actions.

    The story is told through Anna, Eve and Clementine I really enjoyed reading Clementines view on the world it opened my eyes as a parent to how deeply children are affected by the things going on around them.

    The Things We Keep is an emotional story involving romance, siblings trying to look after their own, dodgy dealings and people coming to terms with the way their life was and what it has become either through illness or from other peoples actions, it relays the story from everybody’s view. It was an easy book to read and I really enjoyed it and recommend to others.

  4. To say I was impressed with this book is an understatement! The Author Sally, her way of writing a story has an easy flow and beautiful way of allowing you into the characters minds, feelings and view of the world they live in.

    I could not put the book ” The things we keep ‘ down. How she, Sally managed to write a love story into an aged care facility with young people who have Alzheimer disease is a mystery to me but one that I will remember.

    Her research must have been so in depth or perhaps close to her heart in some capacity to get such insights into people living with this disease. Each and every character was beautifully written and true to character, I almost wished the story didnt end.

    I will be chasing down a copy of her novel “The secrets of Midwives” and hope it is of the same caliber as this one, my expectations are high!

  5. I must say I absolutely adored “The Things We Keep”.
    It was a book I could literally not put down and had finished half in the first sitting. It was an incredibly compelling and enjoyable read about the journey of people with Alzheimer’s disease and their families and I will be certainly looking for “The Secret Of Midwives” by Sally Hepworth as well.
    An incredibly easy book to read with characters that draw you in and make you feel for them so easily , which is always a great recipe for a great book.
    I personally could relate to this dilemma having a family member in a similar situation and my husband having power of attorney.
    It is an incredibly hard time in people’s lives and Sally managed to make it accessible to others whilst writing it with peoples dignity in mind.
    The Characters of Anna and Jack certainly resonated with me personally and really made me think differently about what people with Alzheimer’s are really aware of and how we deal with the disease.
    The characters of Eve (a cook) and her daughter Clementine also played a large part in Anna’s life helping her be understood in a world that didn’t understand her.
    Thank you Beauty and Lace and Macmillan for the chance to review this wonderful book

  6. I really, really loved this book, ‘The things we keep’, but I wished it had gone on longer. I couldn’t put it down and was so invested in the characters that I really wanted to see what was going to happen in their futures. Eve was just starting to get her life together by the end of the novel and Anna and Luke still had some moments of clarity that I would have liked to be a part of.

    Although the book didn’t go into it too much, imagine being so young and having to live in a residential place with mainly older people for company. Anna never seemed angry about that, but maybe her Alzheimer’s had taken over so much by the time she got to Rosalind House that she really didn’t know or understand.

    It was bittersweet to learn about Anna’s pregnancy after she and Luke had planned their perfect future together. And then to think that she didn’t know that she was even beginning to create that future – it was just heartbreaking. Also having no one else know the real reason that Anna ‘jumped’ off the roof and Anna not being able to remember or explain was so difficult for me to process, although similar situations must take place every day for people with Alzheimer’s and their family/carers.

    Overall, a really lovely book. I laughed and cried and loved the characters. I am keen now to have a look at the other book Sally Hepworth has written and will be looking for that at my local library.

    Thank you so much Beauty and Lace for letting me review this wonderful novel >:o)

  7. I really loved reading this book, right from the beginning i was able to get into it. The story-line is powerful and really well written. When Anna moves into the care home after her dementia is diagnosis, she is only 38, and she is drawn to Luke. He is the only other younger patient there. Anna has moments where can understand what is happening to her and this frightens her very much. She worries about her future and feels powerless. The characters in the story are all really enjoyable and easy to relate to, they kept me interested in what happens to them, and kept me hooked to the story. I felt part of this book.

  8. What a powerful read! This wasn’t just any novel to me… It was exquisitely written in a way that engrossed me from the start to the finish. The characters were developed in such a realistic way that I really connected with them on a deep level. I honestly felt like I knew the characters personally.

    The book is based on two characters, Anna & Eve. Both live such different lives but connect in such a beautiful way throughout the novel, it felt like they had known each other for a very long time.

    Anna is a young woman battling Alzheimer’s Disease. The author did a superb job describing the ins and outs of AD and the debilitating effects the illness has on the person and their loved ones. Studying psychology myself, I am very familiar with the disorder and I felt that Sally portrayed Anna’s character perfectly and it was so believable as she described her thoughts and behaviours so spot on.

    Eve is a widow early on in the novel and mum to Clementine. Eve has had a difficult time adjusting to her new life as a single mother and her new job as chef at Rosalind House.
    This is where the story begins and Anna and Eve begin their journey together.

    The novel was expertly written, I must say. I love how the chapters were intertwined – although each chapter was written from Anna, Eve or Clementine’s perspective. I have to say, the last chapter by Anna gave me shivers and I just felt like reading the novel again.

    Just an exquisite novel to read. I have never felt so connected to the characters and have never been left wanting more. There were moments reading the novel where I was very emotional and others where I was overjoyed. For a novel to bring out those emotions, says a lot! I couldn’t put this book down! Highly recommend reading this! This is quality at it’s best! We’ll done Sally!!!

  9. Thank you to Beauty and Lace and Macmillian publishing for the opportunity to read and review “The Things We Keep” by Sally Hepworth.

    The Things We Keep is a very enlightening and powerful read right from the beginning to end. Based on main characters Anna and Eve and her daughter Clementine who had all had lived such different lives until meeting at Rosalind House an assisted living facility. Anna being only thirty eight was diagnosed with early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Her twin brother Jack who has power of attorney to look after Anna’s best interests had chosen Rosalind House for her to live as there was a younger resident Luke whom Jack thought may help with settling in and to aid the acceptance of what was happening to Anna. With changing circumstances in Eve’s life from a wealthy wife to now a cook and cleaner at Rosalind House she takes a special interest in the lives of both Anna and Luke as they form a relationship with many highs and low through the changes in their lives. When Anna falls pregnant, Anna and Luke’s families have them separated but Eve believes that they should be allowed to spend time together and tries to make this possible. Luke and Anna’s families do let them have what they wanted and they will be together till the end.

    I found the novel to be emotional and joyful and I was highly engrossed in the lives and happenings of the characters. It also gave me a different perspective as to how people and families can have so many changes happen in different ways whether you are wealthy or as happens to Anna, Alzheimer’s disease. It also shows how we should never take things in our lives for granted and treasure what we have.

  10. The Things We Keep Wow, what a emotional book to read. I loved every single character in this book, They made me smile, laugh, sad even cry. I really got into this book from the first page. I never really thought of what dementia would be like at any age but The things you keep showed me how hard it is for the people who have it and found found Anna strong for trying to hold on to her memories and thoughts by using her note pad and pictures. I must admit I hated her twin brother Jack for keeping Anna and Luke separated overjoyed when he let them be with each other again but at the same time I understood why he did it. I felt like I was at Rosalind House living facility living the story with them. it was beautifully written from the perspective of three characters but felt a bond from all of them. Thank you to Beauty and lace,and Pan Macmillan for giving me the opportunity to review The things we keep and thanks to Sally Hepworth for writing such an emotional and joyful story.

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