Many of us have seemingly worthless objects we treasure because they hold memories of their owners. A father’s hat, a mother’s ring, a child’s old shoe, we connect with them emotionally. In The Memory Collectors, Kim Neville takes this idea of objects holding memory and emotion and turns up the dial. Evelyn (Ev) is a young woman who can sense the emotions that are attached to objects, but unlike you and me, she senses these stains, as she calls them, in other people’s objects and even their trash. That’s how she makes a living, finding objects with stains and selling them at a flea market.

She meets another person who senses objects, but unlike Ev, Harriet collects these objects. She calls them bright things and indiscriminately gathers them all. To all intents and purposes, she is a hoarder, her apartment a maelstrom of emotion that makes Ev dizzy. Ev fears the stains while Harriet collects them. Harriet suggests they can help each other. She can teach Ev how not to be overwhelmed by the object’s emotions and Ev can help Harriet sort the objects by their emotional content to create a museum of emotions that could help people.

Harriet and Ev, with the help of their now mutual friend Owen, set to work but they all three are hiding secrets. They may have been able to rub along fairly well, eventually coming to trust each other and share their painful secrets, but Ev’s younger sister Noemi crashes into their world like a runaway train.

I lovedĀ The Memory Collectors. Ev was a realistic heroine, despite her paranormal ability to understand objects. So much of the story is about her need to understand her ability and to face her past. Harriet, too, had to face her past and understand her need to collect. Ev’s sister Noemi was satisfyingly complex even though she appeared shallow and materialistic at times. There is an analogy in the story of standing with one foot in two boats, the past and the future, and falling in the water in the present. This is a story where more than one person has to pick a boat. Along the way is a masterful story with characters you will come to love.

The Memory Collectors will be released on March 16th. I received an ARC from the publisher through Shelf Awareness.