The story in The Things We Keep by Sally Hepworth reminded me of the novel Still Alice by Lisa Genova because it is also told in the voice of a person being effected by Alzheimer’s, although in this case it is not a fifty-something college professor but a thirty-eight year old motor cycle riding paramedic named Anna. Anna’s brother arranges for her to live in a care facility after it is no longer safe for her to stay with him and his young family. Here Anna meets Luke a man about her age who is also suffering from dementia. They develop a romantic relationship that brings a momentary escape from their situation and adds meaning to both their lives. But their families and the staff at the care home aren’t sure how to handle their relationship.
The Things We Keep has a second narrator, a young woman named Eve who is trying to start life over as a cook in the care facility where Anna and Luke live. Eve’s husband has died, leaving her and her young daughter Celementine destitute.
The book made me think about how important it is to live in the moment, to enjoy and appreciate the here and now and to relish whatever love and happiness and meaning it brings. It also made me think about what life is like for people in institutionalized settings. There is a whole network of relationships to navigate and a power imbalance to be handled with responsibility. There are opportunities for caring and love but also hurt and harm. It made me think about the people I know who live in such settings and wonder how I might feel if I have to live in that kind of a facility someday.