Thursday, December 7, 2017

Review: The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan

When I lose something and cannot find it no matter how long I look, when I finally give up on it and consign it to memory only, it has always comforted me a little to think that the Borrowers, from Mary Norton's classic children's tale, have found it and are using it lovingly. But what if there was a person out there who collected and catalogued lost items with the aim of one day reuniting them with their owners and that person had my own lost object in his or her safe keeping?  It would be comforting to think that my things were still out there, found and cared for, their stories preserved, until the time came for me to find them again.  In a sense, that's the lovely premise of Ruth Hogan's novel, The Keeper of Lost Things.  From a hair bobble to a single glove, a puzzle piece to a small, painted wooden house, these things and more are found and carefully kept, awaiting the day they can be returned to their rightful owners.

Anthony Peardew is an older man, once a celebrated author, who has lived alone for forty years in a magical sort of house, having lost Therese, the love of his life shortly before their wedding. After Therese's death he realized he'd lost the small communion medallion she gave him to always keep them connected and although he didn't find the small and meaningful charm, it inspired him to collect and safeguard other people's lost treasures. In his twilight years, he hires Laura, damaged and adrift after her divorce, to be his housekeeper and personal assistant, warning her to never go into his locked study. Never tempted to defy this order, she works contentedly for him for a handful of years. After his death, she is surprised to discover that he's left the house and all of his possessions to her. His major request accompanying this bequest is that she now go into the study, behold the immense, carefully catalogued collection of lost items he's found over the years and attempt to return them to their owners because if even one item's return will ease a broken heart, it will all have been worth it. As Laura slowly ventures out of her self-imposed isolation and befriends first Sunshine, a young woman in the neighborhood with Down's Syndrome and a special sensitivity to the things and vibrations around us that others never feel, and then Freddy, Anthony's gardener, she has to figure out how best to find the lovingly kept items' original owners, how to placate the ghost of Therese, who still haunts the house, and how to open her own heart to all the possibilities of living life to the fullest. In a parallel narrative, a young woman named Eunice applies for a job at a small publisher and promptly falls for her handsome boss, Bomber, becoming his best friend and confidante but never anything more. She devotes her life to loving Bomber knowing that he loves her back only Platonically.

The vast majority of the story is focused on Anthony, the past that led him to be the keeper of lost things, and then on Laura, who is herself very clearly one of Anthony's lost things. Each of the inanimate items highlighted in the book is given its own short story, but whether it is one written by Anthony or one contained in the item itself is left to the reader to decide.  In order to cut some of the sweetness of the premise of the novel as a whole, these object stories veer from heartwarming to serious to desperately sad. There is a fair bit of humor woven into the novel to leaven it too. My favorite being after Laura hears neighborhood gossips in a local pub speculating on why Anthony left her the house. As she walks past their table leaving the pub, she informs them it was because of "Fellatio on Fridays." The fact that one of these nasty Nellys doesn't even know what this means makes it that much more entertaining. There are only very light touches (and a few hidden clues) almost connecting the story of Anthony with the story of Eunice and Bomber for the majority of the story and although they come together well in the end, a little more explicitness might not have been amiss so that the reader wasn't confused as to why these very different tales were together from the start. Both are thematically similar though, focused as they are on caring for and supporting those around you, accepting them for who they are and the struggles they face, and loving people, dogs, and the important bits and bobs of their life to the very end. Although there is a wistful sort of quality to the novel, it would be a perfect novel for those who are looking for a book to counter the dysfunction and unhappiness of so much of current literature. In the end, it is that elusive book that leaves a warm glow in its wake without resorting to sappiness or cliche. Very much a novel of love and loss, compassion and redemption, this is a gentle, charming, and thoroughly worthwhile read.

For more information about Ruth Hogan and the book, check out her website, like her on Facebook or Twitter, or follow her on Instagram. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the amazon reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.
Thanks to Trish from TLC Book Tours and Harper Collins for inspiring me to pull this off my shelf sooner rather than later.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, this book sounds just great. The keeper of anything we have ever lost, what an interesting concept!

    ReplyDelete

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