Title: The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Genre: Contemporary, Women’s Fiction
Length: 351 pages
Book Rating: A
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
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 another 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.
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth is a bittersweet novel about an unconventional romance in an assisted living facility. Surprisingly humorous, this emotional novel is sure to resonate with anyone whose life has been touched by dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease.
Anna Forster knows she is at risk for early onset Alzheimer’s but unlike her twin brother Jack, she does not undergo genetic testing to find out for sure. Despite not knowing she has the gene, when symptoms begin, she has a pretty good idea what is happening to her. Once she receives the official diagnosis, she leaves behind her unhappy marriage and moves in Jack and his family. Fearing her illness will put her nephews at risk, she then moves into a privately owned assisted living facility. There, in the midst of the “oldies”, Anna meets Luke, who has also been diagnosed with early onset Alzhemier’s. As the youngest people in the facility, the two strike up a friendship that quickly turns romantic, but after a heartbreaking accident, their families insist they be kept apart. When newly hired cook Eve Bennett learns their shared history, she does everything in her power to help them.
Before her diagnosis, Anna is a vivacious and quick-witted paramedic who enjoys riding her motorcycle and spending time with her family during her off duty hours. Wanting to spare her family the burden of caring for her, she is proactive in managing her care, but her condition deteriorates rapidly, necessitating full time care much sooner than anticipated. Although not exactly overjoyed to be living with senior citizens, Anna quickly comes to appreciate their struggles since she too is experiencing some of the same issues. At first, she keeps to herself but knowing Jack will worry if she does not take a more active role in facility’s activities, she makes an effort to get to know the other residents. Naturally gravitating to Luke (aka young guy), she is grateful to have someone her age who also knows some of what she is going through. As both of their conditions worsen, Luke bolsters her flagging spirits and provides her a new perspective of their respective futures. Their romance is sweet yet heartbreaking as they are both aware their time together is limited but they are determined to spend whatever time they have left with one another.
Eve and her seven year old daughter Clementine are starting over after her financier husband’s Ponzi scheme is discovered by the SEC. Losing their fortune is difficult but trying to understand how the man she knew as a loving husband and father could do something so reprehensible is nearly impossible. However, her main priority is Clementine and the job at the assisted living facility will ensure Clementine won’t have to change schools. Eve is soon wrapped in the residents’ lives but as she forms an unlikely friendship with Anna, she knows that keeping her apart from Luke is not in either of their best interests. Despite feeling like she is missing crucial pieces of the puzzle, Eve devises a scheme to allow Anna and Luke to spend time together, but will this decision come back to haunt her?
Anna’s perspective provides readers with an insightful (and sometimes humor filled) perspective of what an Alzheimer’s patient experiences. From the earliest stages of forgetfulness to full blown cognitive decline, Anna’s journey is heartbreakingly realistic as she gradually loses the basic skills of everyday life. Her romance with Luke brings up interesting questions about a dementia sufferer’s ability to fall in love and fully participate in all aspects of a relationship. Anna’s deterioration is sensitively and accurately portrayed and her sense of humor helps keep the story from becoming overly maudlin or sentimental.
The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth is a poignant yet incredibly uplifting novel with a wonderful cast of lovable characters. The two story arcs are quite appealing and while Anna’s storyline has the most personal meaning to me, I enjoyed watching Eve and Clementine work through the aftermath of their personal tragedy.
A beautifully written novel that is heartfelt and engaging, I highly recommend The Things We Keep to readers of all ages.