Keepsake by Kristina Riggle
It is no secret that in recent years, the subject of hoarding has been on the minds and lips of our material-obsessed society. Ask anyone who watches reality TV or even just channel-surfs the cable shows: hoarding is the new rubber-necker’s delight. Unless you are a hoarder yourself, it’s hard to imagine why an otherwise sane or “normal” person would want to overly cram every single corner of their house with junk and trash. It just doesn’t seem to make sense to the rest of society.
With her new novel Keepsake, Kristina Riggle attempts to shed light on this current epidemic. We meet Trish Dietrich, a single mom trying to hold it together for her 8 year old son Jack and teenage son Drew. After an accident that is caused by Trish’s hoarding problem, a social worker arrives at the home and threatens to remove Jack unless the house is cleaned up. With this cold slap of reality, Trish is forced to confront her worst fears: she is A Hoarder. Panicked and in denial of her situation, Trish initially refuses all offers of help, even though she is fully aware of the gravity of her situation. Not willing to wait any longer and fed up with his mother’s behavior, Drew takes it upon himself to contact his aunt Mary, Trish’s estranged sister, and pleads for help. Mary’s concern for her nephews overrides her initial reluctance to re-establish a relationship with her sister and thus arrives with grim determination to help Trish battle her inner demons, which isn’t to say this is an easy task.
Trish and Mary have a long and tragic history, which is makes it all the more poignant considering their own mother was a hoarder to the extreme. While Trish picked up the same behaviors she grew up with, Mary left home at an early age and did a complete 360, swearing she would never, ever live like that. While cleaning Trish’s home the sisters stumble upon their mother’s teenage diary, which eventually leads each one to come to a mutual understanding of who they are and why they are so different. Throughout the story other family members and friends are brought in to aid the grave situation and they admirably reach out with genuine concern to help Trish even when she strongly resists. These characters are very spot-on and likable. I especially enjoyed the easy conversation that takes place because it is contemporary and true-to-life.
This book works on two levels: a satisfying read for anyone who enjoys authors like Kristin Hannah or Barbara Delinsky and it is an engaging commentary on one of society’s little-known and widely misunderstood human behaviors.
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