The Things We Keep
by Sally Hepworth
Why I chose this book? the similarity to Five Days Left
When I read this book? January 2016
Source: Reading Group Gold
Here is a synopsis of The Things We Keep from Goodreads
Anna Forster, in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease at only thirty-eight years old, knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. She also knows there's just one other resident her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life at Rosalind House. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.
When Eve Bennett is suddenly thrust into the role of single mother she 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.
When I saw that Reading Group Gold was offering ARCs of this book I grabbed it. The synopsis reminded me a bit of Five Days Left and Still Alice. While I didn’t like it quite as much as I did those, it was a fantastic read! In this story two young people are suffering from different forms of dementia: Anna has early onset Alzheimer’s which results in progressive memory loss for her, and Luke has frontotemporal dementia which results in his slowly losing his ability to speak coherently. There is also a secondary story of Eve Bennett who suddenly finds herself with financial difficulties and a young child to care for. Though she is a trained chef, she takes a job as a cook at the assisted living facility where Anna and Luke live in order to keep her daughter at the school she loves.
I thought the author presented a very realistic picture of what it must be like for people coping with dementia, both as patient and as caregiver. While at times Anna was completely lucid and able to reason, at other times, she was disoriented and unable to function. This of course go worse as time progressed. It was interesting to see Anna was able to recognize that she was no longer thinking clearly and to understand why this was happening. This was very frustrating, not only for Anna, who knew she was not always making sense, but also for her family, who while they knew why this was happening, still couldn’t quite grasp how much she had deteriorates. I also enjoyed many of the characters we met, especially the older married couple, Laurie and Clara, who shared a suite at the assisted living center, and Bert, the ‘grumpy old man’ with a soft heart!
The secondary story of Eve was one I didn’t enjoy so much. While I appreciated Eve’s ability to see through the disease and appreciate Anna and all the residents as people, I thought some of her actions were unrealistic, and the resolution came about a little too easily. At the same time, I felt that her story was left up in the air, and we don’t really know what happened down the road with her romantic interest.
Despite this minor short-coming, I enjoyed the book very much! This was a story of hope and redemption that showed us that even when very bad things happen, good things can come out of it. This will be another great pick for book clubs to discuss, with topics ranging from ‘what would you do’ as one of the characters, to what makes a person’s life worth living, priorities, and more! I found a discussion guide online at Book Browse, but I think a group could have a great discussion centered around this book even with no guide!
My Rating: ★★★★½ 4½ Stars
I received an Advanced Reader’s Edition of this book from Reading Group Gold.