Yes, the heroine of The Things We Keep, Anna, is a 38-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s disease who is confined to an assisted-living facility. But no, Australian writer Sally Hepworth’s second novel is not depressing, and while her narrative can be sad and even painful at times, it is never bleak. On the contrary, the story of Anna and her “boyfriend” at Rosalind House, fellow patient Luke, is tragic but also hopeful, positive and even romantic.
Anna and Luke’s relationship may be the heart of the novel, but its peripheral characters are equally compelling. First among these is Eve, a young mother who lost her identity after her husband’s precipitous fall from grace and reinvents herself as the cook at the assisted-living facility. Hepworth’s depiction of Eve’s spirited daughter, Clem, is also heartrending, as are her portrayals of the eclectic contingent of residents at Rosalind House.
Hepworth’s debut, The Secrets of Midwives, was critically acclaimed, and it’s always a formidable task to impress readers with a second novel. But with The Things We Keep, Hepworth proves that literary lightning can indeed strike twice.