Though the past few weeks have left me little time to read, when I was reading, I was loving this funny, tragic, and amazing book. I hadn’t heard much about it on the blogosphere, but any book that can manage to make hoarding comedic, and also make me shed a tear and a nod in understanding, is one that I feel should be shared with every reader who is too afraid to let go or too damaged to hold on. There’s a lot that I could say about this book, and all of it makes me happy that I got a chance to read it and see for myself how talented Jill Smolinski is.
Lucy is every bit as troubled as you would expect. She has given her all for her son, Ash, yet he throws it all away again and again. He’s not a drug user, he is a full blown addict, complete with the lies and manipulations that have worn Lucy down to a nub. Lucy is not afraid to let go of her possessions, and this is, in fact, what she has done to an extreme degree. The only thing that she hasn’t given away for the sake of her son’s rehabilitation is her car—the one thing that can carry her away, and that she has a special affinity for. While Lucy is able to let go of her possessions, she can’t let go of her son, and as she’s dragged under again and again in the emotional turmoil that sending him away has caused, she keeps telling herself that this will be the last time. But will it, really?
On the other end of the spectrum, we have Marva: a very famous and infamous painter who is a secret hoarder. When Lucy walks into her home for the first time, she is astounded and appalled. Marva can’t let go the way Lucy has. She has lost so much, and in an attempt to heal herself has surrounded herself with objects that she feels will somehow fill the gap. Marva is a curious mix of frightened recluse and cantankerous rebel. Only she knows the real reason she must have her house cleared out in a matter of weeks, and only she knows what Lucy needs. But getting Lucy to accept the advice of a woman who can’t stop compulsively collecting is going to be more than a little difficult. Marva is keeping big secrets from everyone, and when Lucy finally digs out the reasons for her housecleaning project, the novel turns from curiosity piquing to intensely emotional. Maybe the two can heal each other, but as it always does, healing will come at a price.
Added to this mix are the problems that Lucy and Marva bring with them: Lucy is still in love with Daniel but can’t forgive him for betraying her in her time of need, and Marva is struggling to conquer a heartbreak that cannot be forgotten. As the two women clear the respective spaces in their hearts and living spaces, they can’t help but confide in each other the secrets that no one else knows. It’s a fascinating juxtaposition—the lonely and fierce hoarder, and the headstrong and clueless mother. Marva and Lucy are very different but also alike in ways that seem unclear at first yet become as stark as can be as the novel moves forward. They both need healing, and Smolinski’s brand of humor is just the tonic to spice up this unlikely pairing.
I loved this book and thought it had the perfect mix of humor and soulfulness that elevated it into a story that I won’t soon forget. While I did figure out Marva’s secret a smidgen before it was revealed, the tight construction of the narrative and the emphasis on letting go juxtaposed with holding on for dear life was something I think a lot of readers will be able to empathize with. A great read, full of humor and surprises. Recommended.
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.