Thursday, November 5, 2015


Title:  Keepsake
Author:  Kristina Riggle
Publication Information:  William Morrow Paperbacks. 2012. 384 pages.
ISBN:  0062003070 / 978-0062003072

Book Source:  I read this book for a local book club.

Opening Sentence:  "The stranger gave me an empty smile."

Favorite Quote:  "The funny thing about denial, though, is that you never know you're doing it."

The Mayo Clinics defines hoarding with the following characteristics:
  • Difficulty getting rid of possessions.
  • Distress at the thought of getting rid of things.
  • Homes filled to capacity with stuff.
  • Potential of the behavior and the physical things to impact daily functions of life.
  • Inability of a hoarder to see hoarding as a problem.
Hoarding as a topic has been in the media a lot recently. TV shows are dedicated to the topic. Articles are written about it. Psychologists study it and treat it as a psychological disorder.

In this book, Trish is a hoarder. It has cost her her marriage and her older son. It may now cost her her younger son, who is injured at their home as a result of her hoard of stuff. Social Services warn that the court will remove the child from her care unless she can provide a safe environment for him to live in.

Trisha loves her son, and he loves her. The question is whether her love for her son is enough for her to overcome her compulsion to hoard. Family - her father, her sister, her ex-husband, and her older son - get involved. Emotions and history are revealed, leading eventually to the root cause of Trish's hoarding.

The story is told from the alternative perspectives of Trish and her sister Mary. Their stories relate back to their mother's story. She was a hoarder herself, with roots reaching back to her own childhood trauma. Hoarding led to her losing her husband, one daughter, and eventually her life.

Growing up in the same household, Trish and Mary have had diametrically opposite reactions to their mother's hoarding. Both have other reasons for their behavior, but their childhood plays a key role. Trisha has become a hoarder herself while Mary chooses to live a somewhat sterile life - both in her environment and in her relationships with others. They exhibit different behaviors, but both lead a secluded, closed-off life.

Their alternating perspectives are sometimes hard to follow in the book, particularly at the start to each chapter. Since both are written as first person narratives, it takes a few paragraphs at the beginning of each chapter for me to adjust to whose voice I am hearing. I find myself re-reading the chapter opening once the perspective is established.

The first two third of the book is slow moving, with lots of descriptions of Trish's hoarding, the looming specter of Social Services, and her family's attempts at intervention. Trish struggles. People try to intervene. Anger and sadness ensue. The cycle repeats several times with different people. Trish and Social Services. Trish and her older son. Trish and Mary. Trish and her ex-husband. Trish and her father. Mary's story seems secondary, relies on one key relationship, and is equally slow to develop.

Then, all of a sudden, the story moves forward. The "whys" are revealed, issues are resolved, and the book ends rather abruptly and rather neatly. It seems that the narrative is in a supporting role to the information in this book. The book is more about the topic of hoarding, its possible causes, its impact on families, and its treatment. The narrative becomes a vehicle through which to deliver that message. Once the message is done, so is the narrative. Open issues remain, but the implied resolutions are clear. The mess of life is cleaned up too neatly, literally and figuratively.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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