REVIEW: CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR, BY HALLIE EPHRON

 

Emily Harlow is a professional organizer who helps people declutter their lives; she’s married to man who can’t drive past a yard sale without stopping. He’s filled their basement, attic, and garage with his finds.

Like other professionals who make a living decluttering peoples’ lives, Emily has devised a set of ironclad rules. When working with couples, she makes clear that the client is only allowed to de-clutter his or her own stuff. That stipulation has kept Emily’s own marriage together these past few years. She’d love nothing better than to toss out all her husband’s crap. He says he’s a collector. Emily knows better—he’s a hoarder. The larger his “collection” becomes, the deeper the distance grows between Emily and the man she married.

Luckily, Emily’s got two new clients to distract herself: an elderly widow whose husband left behind a storage unit she didn’t know existed, and a young wife whose husband won’t allow her stuff into their house. Emily’s initial meeting with the young wife takes a detour when, after too much wine, the women end up fantasizing about how much more pleasant life would be without their collecting spouses.

But the next day Emily finds herself in a mess that might be too big for her to clean up. Careful what you wish for, the old adage says . . . now Emily might lose her freedom, her marriage . . . and possibly her life.

My Thoughts: I loved how Careful What You Wish For began immediately with Emily’s process of “sparking joy,” and I could visualize the delightful videos she created for her clients to motivate them in their own journeys.

Of course, once Emily took on her two newest clients, one of whom had questionable items in that storage unit, I knew we were in for some darkness ahead. Now it was not so much about sparking joy, but about staying out of trouble and even staying alive. I was also worried about the newest client and where her odd behavior would take them.

Could Emily turn the focus of the cops away from herself and on the path to solving the mysteries? Frank’s bossy actions made me dislike him intensely, so I kept turning the pages and rooting for Emily’s success. 4.5 stars.

***

REVIEW: THE WOMAN WHO KEPT EVERYTHING, BY JANE GILLEY

 

79-year-old Gloria Frensham is a hoarder. She lives amongst piles of magazines, cardboard boxes and endless knick-knacks that are stacked into every room of her home, and teeter in piles along the landing and up the stairs.

She hasn’t left the house in years, but when a sudden smell of burning signifies real danger, she is forced to make a sudden departure and leave behind her beloved possessions.

Determined she’s not ready for a care home, Gloria sets out to discover what life still has to offer her. It’s time to navigate the outside world on her own, one step at a time, with just one very small suitcase in tow…

 

My Thoughts: Gloria was a delightful character, even while she was surrounded by her hoards of possessions. I liked her feisty and stubborn ways, which helped her deal with what happened after her domineering son Clegg removed her from the house, set her up in a nursing home, and then planned to discard her, along with her possessions.

But Gloria found a way to turn life’s lemons into lemonade, and it was so inspiring to follow her along as she found her own way in her new reality.

My favorite parts: when she recovered her “voice” and told Clegg off, I was cheering.

I kept turning the pages of The Woman Who Kept Everything as Gloria rediscovered adventure and developed her own plan for her future. I liked that, despite having lost many of her friends, there were still a few who were there for her.

As a senior citizen, I love discovering how people who have been tossed aside by their families find a way to reinvent themselves. It helps if they are basically healthy and have a pension. A clear-minded persona can rise from the depression and move forward. Cheers to Gloria!

On the downside, the changes in Gloria came about from a startling incident that forced her to look at her life. Her moving forward happened rather quickly, but I enjoyed the process nevertheless. Sometimes we do want life to be like a movie, solved within a two-hour period. So, despite these minor “flaws,” I thoroughly enjoyed Gloria’s journey. 4 stars.***

REVIEW: THE HOUSE WE GREW UP IN, BY LISA JEWELL

71uOvtmWDeL._SL1500_Nestled in a pretty little village in the Cotswolds, the cottage had once been a quaint and cozy home for Colin and Lorelei Bird and their four children: Megan, Bethan, and twin boys, Rory and Rhys. They dubbed it The Bird House.

Lorelei was a childlike woman who seemed lighthearted on the surface, but there was something about her. Was it her slight detachment? Or, perhaps, it was her increasing need to surround herself with treasures. It all seemed to start with her tendency to buy everything in bulk, as if the thought of running out of something terrified her.

Until ultimately, the stacks and stacks of belongings increased monumentally because she never threw anything away.
Her fear of losing even one item was definitely a sign that things were not right.

Almost as if she were reacting to her mother’s disorder, Meg turned to a well-ordered, minimalist lifestyle that reeked of another kind of disorder: slight obsessive-compulsiveness.

Beth stayed at her mother’s house for so long that one might wonder about her psychological state. At thirty, she seemed adolescent and made some dangerous choices that would later come back to haunt her.

Something traumatic happens to them on Easter in 1991, and for all the years afterwards, they would be reeling from it. Would Rory be most affected? Or would Lorelei’s apparent lack of a reaction signify the beginning of the end for her? What secrets hide behind Lorelei’s façade, along with her inordinate need to surround herself with objects?

Alternating perspectives, including a few e-mails written by Lorelei to an Internet friend named Jim, reveal much of the story and finally yield some answers. An engaging tale that will appeal to fans of family dysfunction, The House We Grew Up In: A Novel was full of realistic characters, and I especially enjoyed the wonderfully hopeful ending. 5 stars.

LIVING IN A COCOON OF HORROR: A YOUNG GIRL’S INTERIOR JOURNEY

Sixteen-year-old Lucy lives two lives: the one at home, where she escapes to her room as a refuge from the rest of her house; and the one at school, with a best friend and possibly a boyfriend, neither of whom can ever come to her house, because Lucy’s mother Joanna is a hoarder. Not just someone who collects a lot of stuff, but someone who is gradually burying herself and her family in the cave of treasures she accumulates by ordering off the shopping network, going to every tag sale around, and bringing it all home with her.

The space is narrowing every day, with toppling stacks hovering in every available part of each room and blocking the hallways. The kitchen is filled with garbage and decaying food; the room reeks of putrefying things. In the living room, Joanna sits watching TV. She is angry, frustrated, and takes out her feelings on Lucy when she cannot find something. She, too, lives another life as an oncology nurse, kind and loving to her patients.

Is there any escape from the devastating mess and the terrifying isolation that locks these two individuals within a cocoon of horror?

Out of nowhere, seemingly, something does happen: a tragedy that fuels Lucy’s panic and propels her into a desperate sort of action. She sees that the only solution is to clean up the mess before she calls for help. Paced in increments of time marking the next 24 hours, we see Lucy’s futile attempt to make a dent in the morass of her life. And then…almost as if she is guided by some unseen force, she takes one final action to change her world forever.

Hauntingly emotional, pulling the reader right into the desperation that marks Lucy’s life, Dirty Little Secrets is a poignant reminder of the horrors of an existence that can claim the vulnerable and separate them from others.

The writer’s style and pace kept me turning those pages, but I would have enjoyed seeing more interaction between Lucy and Joanna before everything changed. Flashbacks give the reader a glimpse of what life might have looked like before the horror it became, and there were defining moments that apparently set the stage for what Joanna became, but the motivation seemed nebulous. Hoarding as a mental health disorder is definitely getting a lot of attention these days, and this rendition showed the teen point of view very well. Four stars.

WAITING ON WEDNESDAY: KEEPSAKE — APRIL 18

Welcome to another special Waiting on Wednesday event, hosted by Jill, at Breaking the Spine.  Every Wednesday, we enjoy sharing our enthusiasm for upcoming book releases.

My feature today is a novel that I’m very excited about.  Keepsake, by Kristina Riggle, is a timely and provocative novel that asks:  What happens when the things we own become more important than the people we love?


To be released June 26, 2012

Amazon blurb: 

Trish isn’t perfect. She’s divorced and raising two kids—so of course her house isn’t pristine. But she’s got all the important things right and she’s convinced herself that she has it all under control. That is, until the day her youngest son gets hurt and Child Protective Services comes calling. It’s at that moment when Trish is forced to consider the one thing she’s always hoped wasn’t true: that she’s living out her mother’s life as a compulsive hoarder.

The last person Trish ever wanted to turn to for help is her sister, Mary—meticulous, perfect Mary, whose house is always spotless . . . and who moved away from their mother to live somewhere else, just like Trish’s oldest child has. But now, working together to get Trish’s disaster of a home into livable shape, two very different sisters are about to uncover more than just piles of junk, as years of secrets, resentments, obsessions, and pain are finally brought into the light.

***

I can’t wait to read this story!  The issues speak to that part of us that clings to sentimental objects.  It also addresses an unmet need seemingly satisfied by the treasures we keep.

What are you waiting for?  I hope you’ll stop by and share….