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The 52 Book Club's Reading Challenge 2022

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Monday, June 04, 2012

Depressing Hoarding Novel A Ho-Hum Read

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

Trish Dietrich, a divorced mother of two boys, knows she has a clutter problem.  She also knows it isn't that bad.  After all, she's the daughter of a hoarder—she's only too well aware of what a real problem looks like.  It's true that her husband, Ron, left partly because he could no longer stand Trish's mess.  And that her oldest son, 17-year-old Drew, bunks at his girlfriend's house since his own bed disappeared under his mother's piles a long time ago.  So, okay, maybe Trish is a tad untidy, but what single working mom has time to keep a spotless house?  

It's only when a social worker shows up on Trish's doorstep demanding that she clean up her act (literally) or lose her 7-year-old son, Jack, that Trish begins to realize just how serious her hoarding has become.  Jack is the only one who still loves Trish unconditionally—she can't lose him.  But cleaning up her home is a huge, overwhelming project, the very thought of which causes Trish to tremble with anxiety.  How can she let go of so many treasures, so many memories?  She can't.  And yet, in order to keep her son, she must.  

Trish isn't thrilled about accepting help from anyone, especially not her self-righteous younger sister.  Neat, meticulous Mary can't abide hoarding—she fled their mother's packed-to-the-rafters home when she was only 15 and she hasn't set foot in Trish's house in rural Michigan for almost 20 years.  But Trish is desperate.   So—in her own way—is Mary.  As the two dig their way through Trish's mess, they'll uncover more than just years worth of junk.  They'll unearth the anger, the hurt, the bitterness and the dark family secrets that drove them apart in the first place.  Can caustic Trish and sensitive Mary put the past behind them long enough to create a healthy home for Jack?  Or will the attempt be the very thing that tears them apart forever?

Here's the thing about hoarding:  it's depressing.  Fascinating, but depressing—a phrase that could also describe Keepsake by Kristina Riggle (available June 26).  Only the author's fourth book is more of the latter, less of the former.  The story definitely kept me reading, but I struggled to really empathize with the characters, most of whom are unlikable.  Trish, especially, is so confrontational and whiny that it's difficult to feel much for her.  Even Mary, with whom I identify much more than Trish, isn't particularly warm or sympathetic.  Because of this, I had a tough time really getting into this novel, even though I find the themes it explores (not just hoarding, but sister/sister relationships as well as the effects of parental obsessions/addictions on children) interesting.  So, yeah, I'm kind of ho-hum on this one.          

(Readalikes:  Dirty Little Secrets by C.J. Omololu; parts of Keepsake also reminded me of The Girls Who Went Away by Ann Fessler)

Grade:  B-

If this were a movie, it would be rated:  R for language and intense situations

To the FTC, with love:  I received an e-ARC of Keepsake from the generous folks at William Morrow (an imprint of Harper Collins) via Netgalley.  Thank you!   
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Farm to Trouble by Amanda Flower

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The Lost and Found Bookshop by Susan Wiggs



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