Author: Sally Hepworth
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.
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.
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.
I devour books, vampires and supernatural creatures are my genre of choice but over the past couple of years, I have broadened my horizons considerably. In a nutshell – I love to write! I love interacting with a diverse range of artists to bring you interviews. Perhaps we were perfect before – I LOVE WORDS!