Review: The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth


Title: The Things We Keep

Author: Sally Hepworth

Published: Pan Macmillan AU December 2015

Status: Read from December 29 to 30, 2015 — I own a copy  {Courtesy the publisher}

My Thoughts:

The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth is a bittersweet story about longing, memory, hope, loss and love.

Diagnosed with early onset Alzheimers at age thirty eight, former paramedic Anna Forster is the newest resident of Rosalind House, a small assisted living facility in New Jersey, chosen by her twin brother Jack, because it is home to another ‘young’ patient. Anna is indifferent, she doesn’t plan to live long enough to care, but within weeks she and Luke, who has frontotemporal dementia affecting speech and language, are inseparable.

“A few months ago, presented with the knowledge that life wasn’t going to be what I’d planned, I wanted to check out, close the book. But now, it’s like suddenly I’ve found a few more pages. And it feels like, against all likelihood, the last chapter might be the best one of all. The last chapter, in fact, might be something great.”

As Anna’s first person narrative tells of her first few months at Rosalind House, and her burgeoning relationship with Luke, a second and third perspective is introduced. Eve is hired as a cook/cleaner about fourteen months after Anna first arrived at the care facility, and Clementine is Eve’s seven year old daughter. Eve and Clementine are doing their best to re-orientate themselves after a recent betrayal.

“That’s Eve Bennett. So much for her getting her comeuppance. She’s a fraud. Just like her husband.”

Eve is curious about the enforced separation between Anna and Luke, their affection for one another is obvious to her and, despite the risks given the opposition of both Anna’s brother Jack and the center’s administration, she facilitates clandestine meetings between the two.

“What information didn’t I have? And how could it possibly change everything to the point that they’re willing to keep Anna unhappy rather than with the man she loved?”

While the story moves between the past and the present, we learn of the tragedy that led to the decision to keep Anna and Luke apart, and witness Eve and Clem’s struggle to adjust to their new circumstances. Hepworth explores issues of happiness, loss, connection, hope and love.

The characters in The Things We Keep are wonderfully portrayed. I enjoyed Anna’s feisty personality, and I felt Hepworth illustrated her cognitive decline well. The residents of Rosalind House are charming, from Bert, who saves a seat for his long dead wife at every meal, to Clara and Laurie. Eve displays admirable strength, and Clementine is a sweetheart.

Told with humour, heart and compassion, The Things We Keep is a well crafted story with a similar sensibility to Lisa Genova’s Inside the O’Briens.

“I promise. We’ll be together in the end. Bats**t crazy. And together. I promise.”

Available via

Pan Macmillan Iboomerang-books_long I Booktopia I Amazon AUvia Booko

Amazon US

5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kate W
    Jan 05, 2016 @ 18:54:22

    Just received an ARC of this one – looking forward to it (and a bit worried it will make me cry…).



  2. Kay
    Jan 06, 2016 @ 01:24:03

    I want to read this one. Am curious how the story will progress. I’ve had experience with Alzheimer’s (my Dad), but he was older, of course. I do know that some people form very close relationships at their care centers. My father did. He didn’t remember my mother, but he found a lady friend. This hurt my mother, but what could you do? I was glad he had a friend. It’s all very hard to deal with.



  3. Kathryn
    Jan 06, 2016 @ 07:53:27

    I liked this one even though heartbreaking, I though Sally Hepworth told the story in a way that made us think and certainly helped me see the disease with new eyes.



  4. Lisa
    Jan 06, 2016 @ 08:07:47

    Wow. This sounds amazing, although also a tough subject. Thanks for the informative review — adding to my to-read list right now!



  5. MarthaE
    Jan 18, 2016 @ 12:52:48

    This looked good and I like the positive reviews. Thanks for sharing.



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