The Things We Keep
St. Martin’s Press; 2016
Hardcover; 338 pages
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.
Where do I even start?
Fifteen months ago, Anna is escorted by her twin brother Jack to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility, where she is officially checking in as a resident. Though she is only 38 years old, Anna has early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. While her motor functions are still unaffected by the disease, her memory has shown signs of decline, and around-the-clock care at Rosalind House was Jack’s preferred facility because of another resident with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, Luke.
With each chapter, we’re navigated through Anna’s new life and some flashbacks through her perspective. What I really enjoyed from Sally Hepworth’s writing was that she began Anna’s story from the moment she checked in to Rosalind House 15 months ago, and each chapters brings us closer to present day (14 months ago, 13 months ago, etc.). And each time we see Anna, we see struggle finding the words to describe everyday items or fully recognize family members. But she keeps coming back to and finding comfort with Luke, who tenderly shows affection to Anna every day.
This affection doesn’t go unnoticed. Eve Bennett, who recently was hired as a cook (but also does the cleaning?) for Rosalind House, notices the devotion between Luke and Anna, despite their memory loss and difficulty in communication. Eve knew that while the mind not remember or cannot communicate, the heart still understands. Would Eve be the voice Luke and Anna needed to their families, or would Eve step aside for what their families thought best?
Unfortunately for Eve, she’s also going through her life transition, as her husband committed suicide after being caught in a money laundering scheme that cost many families (including their own) their life savings. Her husband’s suicide left Eve and his young daughter Clementine (Clem, for short) to deal with the backlash and become social outcasts, and working at Rosalind House was Eve’s way of starting over… or at least trying to.
The Things We Keep is not only about Anna’s deterioration through Alzheimer’s and her relationship with Luke, but it’s also about Eve and Clem surviving in their own new “normal” and making a life for themselves worth it.
What I loved most about this book is that the narration went through Anna, Eve and Clem’s perspective, and it was all written in the present tense, which I thought captured Anna’s deteriorating memory loss well enough for a narration.
I laughed. I cried. I got angry. I felt so many emotions that, in the end, was worth it. I highly recommend reading Sally Hepworth’s inspiration on The Things We Keep on Goodreads for background as well.
Copy from my local library.