I guess this is what it means to really grow up + “The Keeper of Lost Things” by Ruth Hogan

It’s been a little more than a year. A year of wondering and hoping and waiting.

A year of hell.

A little less than a month ago my mom passed away. And yesterday the weight of that realization really hit me. Like a brick to the mouth.

It was a normal day for me. A little busy, a little running around. A lot of little decisions made every hour to keep our family going.

But suddenly, every decision I made seemed to contain extra weight. Like a plastic pitcher suddenly filled with water (or vodka . . .), every thing I had to do yesterday was heavier than just a few days earlier.

It was yesterday when it hit me. I’ve been mom, but now I’m the only ‘mom’ in my immediate family. I’m the older child, the only girl, the only one with children. There is no one left in my immediate family that really knew me as a child. Not the way my mom did.

There is no one left for me to  call mom. There is no way I can go home to my mom if things get rough (I don’t even come close to envisioning this, but there was always that net there, just in case). There’s no one I can call to complain to, who will just listen or put me in my place for sniveling and whining.

I no longer have that person who knew me best and longest. She changed my diapers, helped me buy my first bra, simultaneously ignored and helped me deal with my first (and subsequent) periods. She called me on my crap and rarely coddled me, but was the first to comfort me when my I experienced true heartbreak or hurt (and then to tell me to suck it up).

She was there for my victories and my defeats. She watched me rock and reel through my 20’s (I’m sure she was holding her breath for most of it), and then watched me emerge okay, to be married to a good man and to become a mother myself to two daughters. She watched me own a home and find a career; all those adult things we all must do.

In other words, she watched me fake adulthood.

Because that’s what I feel like I was doing before yesterday. Faking being an adult. Now it’s all real. There’s no mom to help me.

My mom taught me to be strong. So strong. I was a daughter of middle class privilege,  a child brought up wanting for nothing. Her childhood was the same, pretty much (although she was really spoiled, according to my Aunt’s stories. As the youngest of three girls, she got everything she wanted because she was stubborn and they were tired. I get it–the youngest child gets the most because everyone is SOOO tired of arguing with KIDS). But then things fell apart in her (in our) life, and I learned how strong she really was. Strong enough to get through the worst of EVERYTHING.

At the end of that horrible time (which I may or may not talk about later–it’s a true story of tough-as-nails), she met my stepdad. And, because of that, my mother taught me true love. She showed me love — or rather, THEY showed me what real love looks like. Supportive, unconditional, forgiving, true. It was because of them that I can love my husband the way I do.

But back to my original point. Suddenly the weight of it all hit me. Seriously hit me. My husband asked me to call the cable company, and then he left for work. That request just tipped the scale. Suddenly, at 50 years old, I felt grown up. I realized that all my decisions were mine. There was no mom to call and talk to about cable decisions or raising a teenager or dealing with unreasonable people.

Suddenly I am the one-and-only mom in our family. For 14 years I’ve been part of the ‘sandwich’ generation, caught between the bread of parents and children. I’m no longer part the meat or the cheese in a sandwich. Or maybe I am, for awhile. Maybe my sandwich is now open faced. But sooner than I want to think about (but not too soon, and in no way in the near future, please), I’m going to be that top piece of bread in that generational sandwich–the grandma and mother.

I miss my mom. Crazily. I’ve had time to prepare for the loss, at least mentally. Lung cancer is not easy to beat. But knowing that she’s gone, realizing that on an emotional level? That part is not so easy.

Days like yesterday make me want to call my mom. And knowing I can’t call her makes her passing so much more real.

And I guess that’s when this adult thing hits home. That’s what it means to really grow up.


The Premise

(Paraphrased from the book blurb.)

 

Anthony Peardew  is the self appointed keeper of lost things. After he lost a keepsake from his  fiancée on the same day she died unexpectedly. he has sought consolation in finding and keeping lost objects—the things dropped, misplaced, or accidentally left behind—and writing stories about them. He has kept his mission a secret from all, puting the items neatly in a room in his house. But as his life draws to a close, Anthony worries that done all he can do to reconnect the items and their owners. In his will, he bequeaths his secret mission to his housekeeper and assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.

Laura is one of Anthony’s lost thing, coming to him after a bad divorce. But when she moves into the mansion, her lonely life begins to change. She finds friendship in the neighbor’s daughter, Sunshine, and a distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As Laura starts to emerge from the fog, she and her new friends embark on a mission to reunite the items with their owners.

In a connected story,  we follow Eunice, who found a trinket on the London pavement years ago and hung onto it. Now, as she comes to the end of her life, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.

As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?

I received an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review

My Thoughts

I have a tendency to give objects I find a story, creating a backstory for them that is rich and full of life. Knowing that there is a whole room filled with objects for which stories were created (at least in Hogan’s work) seemed logical to me, and make my heart more than happy.

And Sunshine, the next door neighbor girl? I love her. She is a young adult with Down syndrome, and reminded me quite a bit of my daughter. I do wish she had more of a life beyond the story (as all the other characters seem to have), but she I loved her. She was an integral part of the story, including the work of reuniting the items with their lost owners–this, to me, was perfect.

The Keeper of Lost Things is a character-driven novel, in that the lost things are characters — and the characters are lost things. Each lost thing has a story which must be uncovered, during which the actual characters are telling the stories and uncovering their truths.

The story of Eunice and Bomber, who met the same day Anthony’s fiancee died, is almost worth its own book. I can’t really say it was parallel to Anthony and Laura’s story: I would say it was more diagonal, running side by side but destined to intersect.

The story is a little too cute, a little too sweet at times, and it could have done without the touch of supernatural (which works fine, but not necessary). But honestly, I loved it. I think I needed to know that life works out sometimes, and that all the objects in the world have a story to someone out there. I needed the cute story, and the happy ending.

Book Details

Title: The Keeper of Lost Things

Author: Ruth Hogan

Publisher: William Morrow

Pages: 293 (Kindle Edition)

 

 

 

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Cousins-Siblings Once Removed + “Black Rabbit Hall” by Eve Chase

This is a recycled post, but the review is BRAND new. 

I was really lucky growing up; I know that now as an adult and a parent. I had parents who pretty much made time for me to do everything that a kid could want to do. I grew up in the country, running a little wild (in a good, country kind of way), and I was forced to do chores, and to work when I got older. I was given a lot (sporting goods equipment, mostly, and clothes, because that was the family business), but I had to work for a lot, too. I learned the value of hard work, and the joy of hard play.

I also was lucky because I grew up near my mom’s family. My grandparents owned the family business for most of those days, with my parents and my aunt and uncle working there as well. Thus, we spent a lot of days with my cousins.

Especially my Best cousins. The Best cousins, both literally and figuratively: their last name is and was Best.

They were all younger than me, so I was kind of their queen (shhh, don’t tell them). My oldest Best cousin, Teresa, was the same age as my younger brother, and they went to school together. Her younger sister, Stacey, was year younger. And their younger brother, Mark, was the baby of the family by about four years or so.

We spent a lot of time together, the Bests and the Carlsonelectra_woman_12 (1)s. Teresa and Stacey were my de-facto little sisters, letting me curl their hair and playing Electra Woman and Dyna Girl with me. Mark was the baby, working hard to keep up, keeping us all on our toes.

Sure, we spent holidays together, but at least once a weekend it seemed like we went to dinner together, or spent the afternoon together, or I babysat for them. We made cookies and rode bikes. We walked their neighborhood and jumped on their trampoline; they hung out in the country with us and jumped on our trampoline.

We screamed at each other, made fun of each other, dried each other’s tears. I made up stories to tell them, and they still prod me to write the book based on those stories.

They were nearly siblings. We shared our mothers’ familial history, and we built our own shared narrative. Because of them, I always felt like I had younger sisters and an extra younger brother.

I never, ever, ever imagined a world where we wouldn’t all live within 20 minutes of each other as full-on grown-ups. But I always thought I would live in my hometown after marriage and children.

As with most things I imagined as a child, this could not be further than the truth. Teresa lives in Oregon, my brother lives in Florida. I’m in Ohio. Mark, the baby, lives in the southern suburbs of Denver. Only Stacey lives in our Colorado hometown. Of my mom and her sisters, only my aunt remains in Colorado.

So we talk on Facebook, and we visit Colorado every couple of years.

But it’s not even close to the same. I miss the physical, emotional, and mental closeness with these people that were my siblings once removed.

I hope they know how much their kinship and friendship meant to me growing up, and how much they mean to me now. How much of our shared past has shaped me, making me into the mother, the wife, and the woman that I am today.

Now that I’m done with that, onto my review of Eve Chase’s Black Rabbit Hall.


An enchanted life can turn haunted in the blink of an eye. 

The Premise

The Alton family country estate in Cornwall is slightly magical. Separate from the world, the clocks don’t keep proper time and the children wander in and out without any cares. Amber and her twin brother love their summers there, near the sea and away from school. Watching out for their younger siblings, the two run slightly wild through the rambling home and the surrounding woods and beaches, all with their mother’s blessing and watchful eye.

And then suddenly all goes wrong.

Thirty years later, Lorna wants get married at Penraw Hall, the official name of Black Rabbit Hall. Remembering visits to the gates with her mother, she’s determined to make the crumbling estate into her wedding venue. The inhabitants hope to make it into a wedding event destination, and Lorna’s wedding will be their first (although her fiance is not so sure).

In an attempt to get her to agree to marrying at Penraw Hall, Lorna is invited to spend a weekend at the estate, and she jumps at the chance. But, once there, she is drawn into the mysterious story of the Altons, whose memories still haunt the estate. Her own memories with her mother, who recently died, are tied up in the estate, and Lorna is unsure why. She only knows that learning more about the Alton family will satisfy her curiosity, and maybe help her understand her mother a little better.

My Thoughts

Lately it seems like every other book I read has alternating voices in alternating times. It also seems like I should be getting sick of it, but not yet!

I really enjoyed Black Rabbit Hall, Eve Chase’s debut novel. Fresh and mysterious and thrilling and lovely all at the same time. Both Amber (Alton) and Lorna are interesting characters with unique voices, although I wish they was a little bit more to both of them.

Chase’s use of language is superb, giving readers a setting Black Rabbit Hall that is perfect in 1969 and then a perfect ruin thirty years later.

The other characters are incredibly less fleshed out, and there are just too many secondary characters. So many of them had promise, but there none of them were developed well enough to reach their full potential. For instance, Amber’s twin brother Toby. We know just enough about him to fit the story. I wanted more. The same can be said of the ‘evil’ step-mother, Caroline, who is just a little too stereotypical. And Lucius, her son, as the handsome misunderstood step-brother, to whom Amber is drawn.

The sub-characters were just too predictable and two-dimensional.

But Black Rabbit Hall is very enjoyable; an involved Gothic mystery. I give it 3.5 stars. And I can’t wait to read more for Eve Chase.