THE THINGS WE KEEP

Title: The Things We Keep
Author: Sally Hepworth
Pages: 352
Year: 2016
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Rating: 4/5

Amazon Summary:
Anna Forster is only thirty-eight years old, but her mind is slowly slipping away from her. Armed only with her keen wit and sharp-eyed determination, she knows that her family is doing what they believe to be best when they take her to Rosalind House, an assisted living facility. But Anna has a secret: she does not plan on staying. She also knows there’s just one another resident who is her age, Luke. What she does not expect is the love that blossoms between her and Luke even as she resists her new life. As her disease steals more and more of her memory, Anna fights to hold on to what she knows, including her relationship with Luke.

Eve Bennett, suddenly thrust into the role of single mother to her bright and vivacious seven-year-old daughter, 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. Eve has her own secrets, and her own desperate circumstances that raise the stakes even higher.

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The kid I babysit twice a week loves to go to Barnes & Noble and look out the windows… strange, I know. One day, as I was wheeling him around in his stroller, I decided to browse the table of new releases. This is where I came across The Things We Keep . The title sounded interesting, and the cover looked like something I’d normally pick up, so I went ahead and read the jacket copy.

Being a sucker for chick flicks, I naturally gravitate towards plots that possess some romantic elements. I tend to like romance thrillers, romance mysteries, and women’s fiction novels that include some romance. Reading the copy convinced me that Hepworth’s novel wasn’t just about the relationship that evolves between Luke and Anna, but also followed their individual journeys through the difficulties brought on by their diseases.

Going to Barnes & Noble with no intention of buying anything–simply because my wallet couldn’t handle it, nothing more–I left the store with The Things We Keep , because I was certain this would be worth the money… and I was right.

Hepworth writes with eloquence and emotion, allowing us to really feel the sadness that comes from Luke and Anna’s battles with early onset Alzheimers but also the happiness that blossoms as a result of their love for one another. It reminds us all that love can overcome obstacles–no matter how big or how small. Anna and Luke’s characters were both relatable and easy to feel compassion for, and it was interesting to see how their characters changed through the narrative. I encourage you all to read Hepworth’s novel, if for no other reason than because you, too, will fall in love.

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THE THINGS WE KEEP

First Comes Love

Title: First Comes Love
Author: Emily Giffin
Pages: 416
Year: 2016
Publisher: Ballantine Books, Penguin Random House
Rating: 4/5

Amazon Summary:
Growing up, Josie and Meredith Garland shared a loving, if sometimes contentious, relationship. Josie was impulsive, spirited, and outgoing, Meredith hardworking, thoughtful, and reserved. When tragedy strikes, their delicate bond splinters.

Fifteen years later, Josie and Meredith are in their late thirties, following very different paths. Josie, a first grade teacher, is single—and this close to swearing off dating for good. What she wants more than the right guy, however, is to become a mother—a feeling that is heightened when her ex-boyfriend’s daughter is assigned to her class. Determined to have the future she’s always wanted, Josie decides to take matters into her own hands.

On the outside, Meredith is the model daughter with the perfect life. A successful attorney, she’s married to a wonderful man, and together they’re raising a beautiful four-year-old daughter. Yet lately Meredith feels dissatisfied and restless, secretly wondering if she chose the life that was expected of her rather than the one she truly desired.

As the anniversary of their tragedy looms, and painful secrets from the past begin to surface, Josie and Meredith must not only confront the issues that divide them but also come to terms with their own choices. In their journey toward understanding and forgiveness, both sisters discover that they need each other more than they knew—and that in the search for true happiness, love always comes first.

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I picked up this book at Barnes & Noble, because I was interviewing with Ballantine, so I wanted to make sure I had read at least one (somewhat) recent publication of theirs. I haven’t read any of Giffin’s other novels, although I did see the movie Something Borrowed . As a result, I had some, albeit uninformed, expectations.

Something Borrowed , the film, is entertaining in that “I want a good laugh and cry” kind of way. It’s not, however, a great film that will expand your knowledge or leave you really rattled and thinking afterwards. For this reason, I expected Giffin’s novel, First Comes Love , to be a slight letdown. I didn’t expect it to have much quality to it, other than to keep romantic readers, like myself, amused on the subway.

That being said, I found myself quite surprised by the end of the book. It wasn’t what I expected. Sure, it’s not the next East of Eden , but it’s more than what you think of when you hear the phrase “rom-com” being applied to a book. It’s not simply a casual beach read–although, I wouldn’t mind having been at the beach while reading it–but it’s a novel that will make you think. What does it mean to be a mother? Is there a “proper” way to grieve, and, if so, what is it? Do you ever really move past significant losses in your life? And finally, can broken family relationships be mended? These are just some of the thought-provoking questions Giffin proposes.

While you may not enjoy it if you’re not a romance fan, it would be unfair to write it off as some a silly women’s novel. It raises important issues while being an interesting read. It will make you laugh, cry, and cry some more.

Clearly, then, it’s certainly not a book for everyone. If you’re interested in romance, however, I urge you to give it a read. You might just find out how much more to love, relationships, and family there really is.

First Comes Love