Book Review: The Keeper of Lost Things

Book Review: The Keeper of Lost ThingsThe Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan
Published by William Morrow on February 21st 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction
Pages: 288
Buy on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Bookshop.org
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one-half-stars

A charming, clever, and quietly moving debut novel of of endless possibilities and joyful discoveries that explores the promises we make and break, losing and finding ourselves, the objects that hold magic and meaning for our lives, and the surprising connections that bind us.

Lime green plastic flower-shaped hair bobbles—Found, on the playing field, Derrywood Park, 2nd September.

Bone china cup and saucer-Found, on a bench in Riveria Public Gardens, 31st October.

Anthony Peardew is the keeper of lost things. Forty years ago, he carelessly lost a keepsake from his beloved fiancée, Therese. That very same day, she died unexpectedly. Brokenhearted, Anthony sought consolation in rescuing lost objects—the things others have dropped, misplaced, or accidentally left behind—and writing stories about them. Now, in the twilight of his life, Anthony worries that he has not fully discharged his duty to reconcile all the lost things with their owners. As the end nears, he bequeaths his secret life’s mission to his unsuspecting assistant, Laura, leaving her his house and and all its lost treasures, including an irritable ghost.

Recovering from a bad divorce, Laura, in some ways, is one of Anthony’s lost things. But when the lonely woman moves into his mansion, her life begins to change. She finds a new friend in the neighbor’s quirky daughter, Sunshine, and a welcome distraction in Freddy, the rugged gardener. As the dark cloud engulfing her lifts, Laura, accompanied by her new companions, sets out to realize Anthony’s last wish: reuniting his cherished lost objects with their owners.

Long ago, Eunice found a trinket on the London pavement and kept it through the years. Now, with her own end drawing near, she has lost something precious—a tragic twist of fate that forces her to break a promise she once made.

As the Keeper of Lost Objects, Laura holds the key to Anthony and Eunice’s redemption. But can she unlock the past and make the connections that will lay their spirits to rest?

Full of character, wit, and wisdom, The Keeper of Lost Things is a heartwarming tale that will enchant fans of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, Garden Spells, Mrs. Queen Takes the Train, and The Silver Linings Playbook.

I was very intrigued by the premise of The Keeper of Lost Things, a book filled with characters who strive to unite lost objects with their owners, and put it on hold at my library. The synopsis made it sound like a serious journey, with characters finding themselves too on their quest to reunite these lost things, but instead it fell short. Though the book has moments of greatness and of poetic writing, the main story manages to be shallow, due to its reliance on stereotypes and convenience. I was also not fond of the jarring phrases the author randomly tossed into her writing.

 

Main character Laura, who inherits the title of The Keeper of Lost Things, and the enormous task of trying to find their homes, is completely unlikable. She falls apart after determining not to pursue her further education in order to marry and then divorce a jerk, and disappointing her parents who slaved in vain to give her a better life. It is completely unbelievable that the original “Keeper,” Anthony Peardew thought that Laura was the one to inherit his life’s work. As someone who was immediately introduced as seeking antidepressants from multiple sources for unhappiness that she wrought upon herself by making poor life decisions—only to quit therapy as soon as she gets the drugs—I was concerned. But regardless, before Anthony passes, he leaves her his house and all of his belongings.

 

Thinking Anthony saw something that I did not in Laura, I kept reading. Unfortunately, she only got worse. She repeatedly hid from Sunshine, her new neighbor with Down Syndrome, out of not wanting to explain herself and her actions. Laura proved repeatedly, to be whiny, pampered, and lacking of any self-sufficiency. Without the help of Freddy and Sunshine, I don’t believe she ever would have been able to fulfill Anthony’s wishes. And if the random introduction of her never-before mentioned life-long friend was a last-ditch effort to make me like poor, helpless Laura, it really did not work. I simply rolled my eyes at yet another addition to Laura’s endless character faults and again wished that literally anyone in the book other than her were the main character.

 

Laura’s romance with Freddy the gardener did not improve matters either. It was nothing but bland and predictable. Perhaps I could have forgiven the sheer formulaic pattern of it all—complete with unspoken feelings, misunderstandings, and even a fist fight with the ex (I literally laughed at this part), etc., —if the story of Eunice and Bomber weren’t running alongside theirs. Eunice was smart, funny, and loyal. Her love and dedication to Bomber, the friend who would never return her feelings, was beautiful and everything one longs for in a friendship. The author’s description of their life together and their shared lossesView Spoiler »even brought me to tears at one point, proving that there is a glimmer of hope for the author’s future writing career. However, it became clear to me that it would not be with this book and its main character.

 

The only thing that was worse than her portrayal of Laura and literally every other story in the book being better than that of hers and the main story, was the author’s ignorant portrayal of Sunshine. I was aghast at the inclusion of the “magical” abilities of Sunshine, a willfully dangerous trope that makes it even harder for persons with disabilities who do not have mysterious and magical ways to feel emotions with touch, or know things that others do not, etc.. As a person with disabilites, I felt that this portrayal and similar ones in books and media, are offensive and a major step back for the understanding of disabilities—something that is greatly needed.

 

It was a shame, because Sunshine as a character, was easily one of the most interesting before she was cheapened with these magic abilities, something real people with disabilites don’t typically have, and the author’s need to give her a reason—other than her worth as a compassionate and sincere character—to be valuable to the book. And if that weren’t enough, the beaten-to-death phrase of “lovely cup of tea,” made it extremely clear that the author could’ve used some sensitivity training or, you know, editing—anything that would have prevented her from using disability as a nothing more than a device to move her plot forward.

 

And the plot was not so great itself. Anthony, the original keeper of lost things before Laura, began imagining and writing explanations of the lost things. Every single one of these stories, which again are all better and less trite than what we see in the main story, comes inexplicably true. This is never explained, but just accepted. So too, was the existence of Anthony’s deceased wife’s continued inhabitance of the house. After reading this book, I’m still not sure if the author intended this book to be a touching coming into one’s own story a la Under the Tuscon Sun, a ghost story, or a drab romantic comedy. Regardless, the main story reads like a straight-to-dvd movie, complete with ubiquitous plot holes, characters bizarrely revealing their deepest secrets at a dinner party to strangers out of nowhere in order for Laura to get a clue to whom a lost item belonged, and all too convenient happy endings for characters who don’t even deserve them.

 

So when the author described Laura’s failed writing career—“Laura’s writing had more style than substance. She wrote ‘beautifully,’ but her plot was too ‘quiet’”—I could not help but wonder if Hogan were describing her own past failures to publish. Perhaps that was why she felt the need to throw in a disability with magical powers, past miscarriages, a ghost, a fist fight, a dog or two dying, and every other trope of which she could think. It also begged me to wonder if many of the metaphors and jarring phrases that were included in this book, were added simply to prevent this same “quietness” that the author struggled with in the past.

 

But all it did, was cause me to read many sentences over again to figure out what the heck was being described. One of these sentences that required a reread was, “But perhaps it would be a woman; a sharp, spiky unfolded paper clip of a woman with black bobbed hair and red lipstick.” Um, what? Not once in my life have I ever thought of someone as “a spiky unfolded paper clip of a woman.” And this sentence was only one of countless odd ones that pepper the book.

 

Though the short stories and the side stories within this novel show some promise, I will not be reading another one of these author’s books any time soon. In fact, I think I will go back to fantasy writing, with its rich world building, and complex magics—not magics bestowed upon characters merely because the author deemed that they are not worthy enough to be in the story without them.

 

 

one-half-stars
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The Keeper of Lost Things - Blogging with the Dragons -Book Review

Posted January 18, 2018 in Book Reviews, Mystery, Thrillers, and Horror

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10 responses to “Book Review: The Keeper of Lost Things

  1. [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “trash”. Reason: Failed GASP Bot Filter Test (checkbox) *]
    I just started reading this book, and was thinking of putting it down for many of the reasons you’ve articulated. I had to read the “spiky paperclip” comment a few times myself. I really started disliking the book with the introduction of Sunshine and her visions, but I didn’t realize what bothered me except I didn’t like the way this adult woman was treated like a child by the writer and the characters. Thanks for giving me many good reasons to stop reading. Happy to discover your blog!

    • So sorry for late response, didn’t realize a plugin was blocking all of my comments. I am so glad to hear that you enjoyed this review and that I wasn’t the only one who struggled with phrases like “spiky paperclip of a woman.” I am happy to be of service in giving someone enough reason to put down a novel they weren’t enjoying. Hope your next read is a better one 🙂

  2. [* Shield plugin marked this comment as “trash”. Reason: Failed GASP Bot Filter Test (checkbox) *]
    Omg, thank you for the comment about the stories magically coming true. I thought I was the only one confused by this.

  3. HolidayE

    I’m glad I found this post! I was trying to finish this book for a book club discussion but had give up. I did lots of rereading sentences too. Also, since I tend to read two books at a time, I struggled since this one was not a book that you can take a few days off of and pick back up. Looking forward to reading more of this blog soon though!

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the review! I am so relieved that I wasn’t the only one doing a double take with sentences. This novel definitely was not what I was expecting either. Hope your next book discussion novel is more to your liking! 🙂

  4. Damon

    Yes! I felt exactly the same. For me the HUGE plot hole was that if Anthony had just left everything where he had found it, instead of hiding it all away, the owners would have had a much better chance of finding their lost things. Why not just hand the stuff in to lost property or if that wasn’t possible then leave the object in a prominent place in the very near vicinity. For example, if he had just left those sodding ashes ON THE TRAIN or handed them to a guard, like any normal person would have done, they would have been found in no time at all! I came away thinking that actually he has caused a lot of people a lot of trouble because he was essentially a petty thief.

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