The Keeper of Lost Things could so easily have been an unbearably twee book destined for the a book-of-the-month and a Hallmark movie adaptation. Happily, Ruth Hogan is smarter than that. She wrote a book that deserves to be loved and passed down. If it is adapted into a movie, it would cast Cate Blanchett, not Jennifer Love Hewitt.
On the surface, it sounds so sentimental and saccharine. Older singleton man leaves his home and obsession to his divorced housekeeper, charging her with a mission, magic and romance ensue. The problem is, that is only the surface of the story.
Anthony lost his true love shortly before their wedding. On the same day Therese died, he lost the medallion she gave him, a symbol of their love and connection. He tried to find it and failed. A stranger, a young job seeker named Eunice found it on the day she found her career and the love of her life.
This double loss gave Anthony a mission in life, to find lost things and treasure them until they could be returned. Forty years pass and he’s nearing the end of his life, a successful author who lives in a lovely manor. Laura is a forty-something woman who went to work as his housekeeper and personal assistant about seven years ago. She loves the home and loves working for him. When he dies, he leaves his home to her along with the all the lost things, asking her to try to return them, hoping their return might heal a broken heart.
He also asks her to look after Sunshine, a young woman in the neighborhood who tells Laura that she is a “dancing drome”, a young woman with mild Down’s Syndrome. Her malapropisms throughout the book are brilliant and often perspicacious. She helps with the lost things, having an ability to connect to their story. Freddy, the younger, very handsome, gardener lends a hand as well, helping to create a web site with the title The Keeper of Lost Things.
While Laura’s story goes forward in the present, Eunice’s story moves from that day in 1974 when Anthony’s Therese died and she got hired and her lifelong friendship with the love of her life. Her story carries us forward, eagerly waiting for the stories to come together.
Meanwhile, there are the objects, carefully catalogued and imaginative and often mordant little stories of loss, pain, betrayal, and sorrow. Are they the real stories or ones Anthony wrote in his many published collections of short stories about found objects.
The Keeper of Lost Things avoids being sentimental through several strategies. First, those stories of lost things can be described by several adjectives, but sentimental, twee, saccharine, sweet, and charming are not among them. They despair, they cry out in pain, but they do not embrace sentimentality. Then there is Laura who is, except in her lack of self-confidence, far too practical and level-headed for a book full of treacle. There is Eunice, whose life-long love for a gay man gives her a rich friendship that does not embitter her.
This book is also too rich in humor for twee. Bomber’s sister Portia’s never-ending homages to the classics of literature are side-splitting. Then there is Sunshine and her constant eggcorns or miswordings. In Chapter 21, they have a scattering of ashes cum marriage ceremony for the long- and newly-dead Therese and Anthony that is a tour de farce. “Dreary beloved, we are gathered together..to join in holy macaroni..till death now you start.” It is side-splitting and magic. There’s also a fair bit of magic in the book, what with Therese haunting the manor, Sunshine sensing the stories of the lost things, and of course, the magic of love.
The Keeper of Lost Things will be released on February 21, 2017. I received an advance e-galley from the publisher through Edelweiss.