Friday, March 27, 2015

Book Review: Keepsake

Trish isn't perfect. She's divorced and raising two kids—so of course her house isn't pristine. But she's got all the important things right and she's convinced herself that she has it all under control. That is, until the day her youngest son gets hurt and Child Protective Services comes calling. It's at that moment when Trish is forced to consider the one thing she's always hoped wasn't true: that she's living out her mother's life as a compulsive hoarder.The last person Trish ever wanted to turn to for help is her sister, Mary—meticulous, perfect Mary, whose house is always spotless . . . and who moved away from their mother to live somewhere else, just like Trish's oldest child has. But now, working together to get Trish's disaster of a home into livable shape, two very different sisters are about to uncover more than just piles of junk, as years of secrets, resentments, obsessions, and pain are finally brought into the light.- Keepsake, Back Cover

To be quite honest, Keepsake was very different from what I imagined it would be. I honestly believed that I would be reading a book told only from the perspective of Trish that delved deeply into the reasons why she is a hoarder. I wanted to understand Trish and sympathize with her, but if you've ever watched the television show "Hoarders: Buried Alive" on TLC, many of the scenes will be familiar. Trish's inability to get rid of items, her insistence on proclaiming that her house "is not that bad" really makes you dislike her character. Seeing her reactions and the fact that she placed blame on everything but herself ("I'm a busy single mother"; "no one is here to really help me, they're here to help my son") really grated on my nerves. The other narrator, her sister Mary, is her complete opposite. While you have one sister that has a mess in her home, Mary is obsessed with keeping her home clean. Mary was really negatively impacted by their mother being a hoarder and cannot stand seeing her house dirty at all. However, Mary's inability to really communicate well with her sister Trish and make her understand that she's not as judgmental as Trish believes really makes the situation a lot worse.

Overall, these two characters drive the story forward and through their conflicts, they learn not only new sides of themselves, but a side to their late mother that they never knew. I liked the fact that each character played a very specific role - we didn't have characters there that seemed pointless. Trish's oldest son, Andrew, was definitely the character with whom I related the most. I could understand his frustrations at not only being unable to help his younger brother, but also being unable to help his mother much, partly due to his age. He has to take on a more adult-like role due to his mother's inability to connect well with reality. If there's one character I truly sympathized with, it was Andrew.

The book was a fast read. I read it over the course of two days. The human drama of the characters really drew me in and I kept turning page after page. After learning of the trigger for Trish's hoarding, I did start to see her in a new light, but it was still really hard for me to believe that the trigger justified her actions. There is a lot of pain and suffering in this book in each character, but it has all been internalized, so that when it all does come out, everything goes up in smoke for a few chapters. Despite the fact that I couldn't make myself to really like Trish nor Mary much, I really liked this book. It was an enjoyable read and the fact that I could grow so frustrated and angry at the two main characters is a sign for me of very good characterization. I've always believed that the main character does not have to be loved; even with a hated character at the forefront, a story can still be very good.

Rating: ★ (3.5)

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