Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Objects of my Affection by Jill Smolinski — 320 pages

Lucy Bloom is struggling to start her life over. After selling her home and decimating her savings account to send her troubled teenage son to a drug rehab, and losing her boyfriend in the process, Lucy is reinventing herself as an expert in the field of organizational decluttering. Having been the author of a book devoted to decluttering, Lucy feels that she is well prepared for any mess life can throw at her. But what Lucy doesn’t count on is her first client, Marva. Marva is a very famous artist who is living as a recluse, and she also happens to be a hoarder of immense proportions. Hired by Marva’s son, Lucy walks into an organizer's worst nightmare, complete with the client who won’t allow one item in her overstuffed home to be removed. But what is most odd is that Marva has decided to clear her home of its massive clutter without any prodding by her son, and she has a timetable that Lucy must strictly adhere to. With all that Lucy has to do, and her son becoming unmanageable once again, it’s not surprising that Lucy is falling apart. But when Daniel, her old boyfriend, comes back into her life to help out with the massive clean-up, old tensions begin to surface. Struggling to keep her head above water, Lucy and Daniel discover some shocking secrets about their client, and are unsure how to proceed. Will Marva and Lucy, both women in crisis, find some closure and healing, or will their hearts remain as cluttered and messy as the house that Lucy is tasked to organize? In this compelling yet humorous look into the lives of two very different women, one is asked to give it all away, while one can’t get rid of it fast enough.

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.

23 comments:

Mary (Bookfan) said...

Ooh, I can't wait to dig into this one :) I'm expecting the audiobook any day. Happy to see you liked it!

Amy said...

Hoarding seems to be the new popular topic for contemporary fiction! This book sounds different in that the author has injected the story with a lot of humor. When you have troubles like Lucy and Marva do, it's good to laugh. I also like the idea of letting go while holding on. This book sounds like real life to me, not to over the top and captivating. And the fact that, despite being busy, with little time to read, you made some time to read this book and enjoyed it convinces this is a book I want to read.
A wonderful review, Heather!

rhapsodyinbooks said...

I'm always nervous vicariously over books about good parents who have kids who despite everything turn into drug users! Makes me scared all over again about parenthood!

Tina~ said...

Wow~ you have splendid reviews...;) This book sounds really good and right up my alley, thanks for sharing!

Wall-to-wall books said...

I knew this Author sounded familiar!!!!
I read "Flip Flopped" by her. It was a fun quirky book, just like I like 'em!
Good review, another one to add to my list!

Audra said...

I haven't heard anything about this book but it seems very timely in that hoarding has become something folks are more aware of. I'm not sure I could read this -- the hoarding and drug addict thing make me wiggle uncomfortably -- but I do appreciate that there's some levity.

Suko said...

Humor, surprise, and soul--this book has got it all! Wonderful, detailed review, as usual! I'm adding this book to my TBR list immediately.

Ti said...

Come to think of it... there aren't any other books about hoarders that I am aware of. Wait... there was one book about two guys. Anyway, you wrote an amazing review today. You made the story sound very appealing.

I am the total opposite of a hoarder. I do get sentimental over some keepsakes but I am always, ALWAYS tossing stuff out. Drives my husband nuts.

bermudaonion said...

The cover of this book gave me the impression it would be rather silly. It sounds like it's got some depth and emotion to it. I need to get hold of it!

Natalie~Coffee and a Book Chick said...

This does sound like such a nice change of pace for me right now. The premise sounds perfect. I'm going to have to check this one out. Thanks for putting this on my radar!

Athira said...

You have made this book sound beautiful. I find that books I read when I don't have the time to read barely stay with me, but this one sounds like it has staying power. That makes me want to check it out.

Heather @ Book Addiction said...

This one sounds good! I honestly hadn't given it much of a thought before but your review definitely intrigues me. Going on the list. :)

Peppermint Ph.D. said...

I just saw this one somewhere today...it may be on sale at B&N. Sounds like a good one!!

Jenny said...

Sounds wonderful! I have a soft spot for unlikely friends sorts of books. I know they are everywhere, everywhere! which is awesome for me.

Sandy Nawrot said...

I really loved the book about the reclusive hoarder brothers (true story too!) Homer & Langely. I am fascinated by this stuff! I've seen this book everywhere lately, but you really hooked me in with this review!

Anita said...

I hope to be listening to the audio of this one soon. I love your review.

Lisa said...

I wasn't sure about this one when I got the pitch but I decided to take a chance with it. I haven't gotten a chance to pick it up yet but now I'm really looking forward to it. Sounds like this is a chance that's really paid off!

Aarti said...

All your reviews of contemporary lit make me want to read all these books that I'd never pick up off the shelf on my own :-) Great review of a book that never would have been on my radar.

Brooke said...

This one sounds particularly interesting to me. Hoarding is so fascinating, probably because I'm the anti-hoarder - similar to Lucy. I throw everything away (except for books, but I'm learning). Definitely need to pick this one up soon.

Jenny said...

Aw this sounds really good! I was curious about it but thought it could be really good or also had the potential to be sort of generic (ack, I think I'm judging because of the genre of the author's last book which I actually heard was good anyway).. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed it so much!

Jenners said...

Oh you make this sound so good. I'm also attracted to it because I actually thought about trying to become a professional organizer once.

Mrs Q Book Addict said...

Oh, I can't wait to read this one. Fantastic review! I'm glad this one is on my tbr pile.

Jules said...

This book sounds like it has a similar writing style to Marian Keyes books. It sounds similar anyways. I'm not a big fan of books like this genre, except for Marian Keyes. I'm not sure about this one, but it has me eyeing my books that remind me of it.

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