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Keepsake: A Novel

Keepsake: A Novel

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Keepsake: A Novel

4/5 (29 valutazioni)
426 pagine
6 ore
Jun 26, 2012


“This story of two sisters, each broken in her own way, is as unflinching as it is compassionate. I was pulled in from the first page.”
—Marisa de los Santos, New York Times bestselling author of Falling Together

For her previous novels (Things We Didn’t Say, The Life You’ve Imagined, Real Life & Liars), author Kristina Riggle has garnered fabulous reviews and established herself as a rapidly rising star of contemporary women’s fiction. In Keepsake, she explores that most complicated of relationships, as two sisters raised by a hoarder deal with old hurts and resentments, and the very different paths their lives have taken. As always, Riggle approaches important topics poignantly and honestly—including hoarding and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in her remarkable Keepsake—while writing with real emotional power and compassion about families and their baggage. For readers of Katrina Kittle and Elin Hildenbrand, Kristina Riggle’s Keepsake is a treasure.

Jun 26, 2012

Informazioni sull'autore

Kristina Riggle is a published short story writer and coeditor for fiction at the e-zine Literary Mama. She lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan, with her husband, two kids, and dog.

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Keepsake - Kristina Riggle


Chapter 1

The stranger gave me an empty smile. It was flat and mechanical: the forced grin of someone who delivers bad news all day long. She was holding out a business card, and I was refusing to take it.

Ayana Reese, the card said. What kind of name is Ayana? On her left hand, which was clutching her notepad, I saw no wedding ring. I could bet every shingle on my roof that this girl was barely out of college and had no children. She would have a pamphlet and a workbook and seminars, but she’d never pushed a child into the world and felt what I felt both times I did it: that our bond was powerful and perfect and would not be broken. By anyone.

Yet here she was, this tiny black woman with a huge messenger bag, holding out a business card with the words Child Protective Services as if my child needed protecting. From me.

I made to close the door but she stepped forward. I stopped the door only an inch from her face. She flinched, and I was glad.

I don’t want to come back here with the police, Mrs. Dietrich, she said. I detected in her voice a drawl she was trying to hide.

I considered Jack’s reaction to the police pulling up here, knocking on this door.

I reminded myself that no one could love a child more than I love mine. So there would be nothing to hide. No matter what that busybody Urgent Care doctor must have thought when he looked at Jack’s shoulder last night.

I swung open the door and stood aside to let Ayana pass. I slammed it hard behind her, but she did not react.

The empty smile, however, was gone.

I didn’t know you were coming, I said.

That’s exactly the point, she replied. We received a report about your son’s injury and came to investigate his living environment.

The doctor, huh? And I thought he was just making conversation. I should have known. As a cop’s daughter I know what a mandated reporter is. But a broken collarbone from an accident at home? Worthy of a report?

We’re not allowed to say.

If Ayana was disgusted by my messy house, she didn’t show it. She probably dealt all the time with meth heads and gangbangers who had loaded guns on the coffee table and shit on the walls. Some clutter wasn’t going to faze anyone with an ounce of sense.

Mama? Who’s . . . Jack appeared from his room, where he’d been reading. He stopped in midstep, one foot trailing behind him. Oh. Miss Ayana.

You know her? I asked him, my palms slicking with sweat.

Ayana, still looking around and taking notes, said mildly, We talked at school today.

How dare you! I exclaimed, then bit my lip: Pull back, Trish. Don’t frighten Jack. I patted his head, told him it was fine, told him to return to his reading. He glanced back over his shoulder with widened, curious eyes before retreating to his room.

Ayana wound her way through my living room, jotting notes on a yellow pad.

I don’t know what you think you’ll find, I said.

Show me your son’s room, please.

Panic was now snaking up my spine. What was happening here? What would I be saying to Jack about this? Honey, this lady says your home is dangerous and thinks you shouldn’t live with Mommy anymore.

This thought made tears prick at my eyes, and I clenched nails into my palms until I felt pissed off again.

She stopped in the hallway in front of Jack’s room.

His door was open, as always. He didn’t like to be separated from me by a closed door. He was sitting in what they used to call Indian style on the one clear space of his bed, the rest of its surface mounded with clothes I hadn’t gotten around to folding and putting away. His drawers were stuffed with other clothes, anyway.

Jack looked up from his book. His face had that spooked look he would get from watching the Harry Potter movies, when things looked bad for the boy wizard and his friends. No matter how much I reassured him the hero would have to survive, that’s the way things worked, he never believed me until the triumphant music played.

The pile of fallen things had not been cleared up just yet, except for the path I’d dug through to reach Jack. I pushed away that memory in order to focus on the real threat: this intruder with a clipboard, this . . . adolescent bureaucrat.

This is what fell? she asked, jotting again. She took out a camera and snapped photos.

I didn’t give you permission to take pictures.

She made another note—uncooperative maybe?—and resumed clicking. Then she turned her lens on the rest of his room.

He doesn’t sleep in there, I said, seeing her notice his bed that was piled with clothing.

Where does he sleep?

With . . . In my room. On what used to be my husband’s side of the bed. He’s got plenty of space.

Ayana stepped away from Jack’s doorway, deeper into the hall, cocking her head to get me to follow her. As I did she said under her breath, He’s seven years old. A seven-year-old should have his own bed—here she began to tick off reasons on her fingers, as if reading from a chart—for privacy, appropriateness, even hygiene.

Hygiene? Are you telling me I’m filthy? He gets afraid at night.

That happens sometimes, she said, her voice empty of conviction, already looking away.

She put a hand on the door across the hall from Jack’s room. No! I shouted before I could stop myself. That’s just storage. I could hear the strain in my own voice.

She turned the knob and pushed, then shouldered the door open. She drew back slightly, her first visible reaction to my home since she’d crossed the threshold. She said nothing, only clicking a few pictures, before pulling the door closed again.

She repeated the same routine in my room. While she was snapping pictures I noticed some bras and panties I’d left lying out, and I shouldered my way in front of her, snatched them up and said, Do you mind? Ayana was passive, her face masked by the camera.

I had nowhere to put the underwear, not being able to reach the dirty clothes hamper, so I balled them up in my hand and followed her back to the living room.

Ayana turned to me. The empty smile was back. It made me feel cold down to my toes.

Mrs. Dietrich, can we sit down somewhere, please?

I led her to my couch. There were some shopping bags on one end, so we had to sit very close. Our knees were almost touching. I interviewed your sons this morning, at school.

How could you? Without my permission!

I knew as soon as I said it what her answer would be. She replied something about official protocol when a report has been made. I also spoke to your ex-husband.

How dare you! I said again, other words sputtering on my tongue, at a loss to express this betrayal, this sneaking and treachery.

This is not a healthy environment for your sons. The fact is, Jack was injured by a pile of falling debris and there are many more such piles in this house. Further, he has no room of his own to sleep in. Even if he had no nighttime fears, there is no other bed for him here that he can use. A child deserves a place to sleep.

He has a place to sleep.

Irregardless . . .

Regardless. You mean ‘regardless.’

She drew herself up straighter on my couch, her eyes narrowing the tiniest bit. Then she blinked, back to cool and professional. In any case. We have a problem here, and we need to help you address it.

What . . . What are you going to do? I settled back onto the couch. My bravado was crumbling. I wanted to stay pissed off because to be pissed off was powerful. But fear was outpacing anger.

I’m going to file a report. We’re going to refer you for a psychological evaluation and follow-up counseling.

A psychological . . . My vocabulary evaporated in the heat of my outrage. I’m not crazy!

No one said you were. I’m also going to come back on a weekly basis to help you stay on track with cleaning up this environment. It’s extremely hazardous not only for your children but for you as well. If something fell on you and if you were home alone, what would you do?

She was exaggerating, twisting reality to suit her purposes. She’d made up her mind about this place before she even knocked on my door. I’m sure my older son didn’t help matters. He’d turned on me long ago.

"What happens if I don’t do it? If I refuse to go get evaluated. If I refuse to spill my guts to some shrink. What happens if I can’t clean up, because if I could keep this house neater, don’t you think I would? I’m a single mother, as you obviously already know."

Surely you have some relatives who might be able to help you? Like I said, we can provide you support.

There’s an ‘or else’ here, I know there is. You’re not just here to hold my hand. If I don’t do what you say, if I don’t get the house cleaned up, what will you do?

In theory, your case could be referred to a judge, but that’s something we all want to avoid.

And then what? What would this judge decide? What are you driving at, young lady?

Ma’am, I have a master’s degree in social work so I’d appreciate it very much if you didn’t call me ‘young lady.’ As to your question, the judge could issue a temporary order of removal until you clean up this house.

Removal? To . . . to where?

That would be up to the judge. Likely to a family member such as the children’s father. Maybe your parents.

Father. I only have a father, I corrected, my voice trailing off as I pictured Jack being told he had to leave me. I had to fight for deep breaths as I imagined my little boy’s fear and grief at being taken from me and the only home he’s ever known. A perfect home, maybe not, but we made the best of it.

I don’t want that to happen, Mrs. Dietrich. I’d rather help you clean up your house. Don’t you want that, too?

I do the best I can, I gulped out. I’m not perfect.

As I knew she would, she handed me booklets and pamphlets, plus a business card for the psychologist I was apparently required to call, if I didn’t want her to run to a judge to take away my kid. She then said she had some questions.

I heard her like we were underwater—distant, distorted—while I turned the business card over and over in my hand, the shrink’s name spinning in and out of my vision. She asked me questions about my own history, probing questions about whether I’d ever been abused (no) and mental health problems in my family (no, I said, because it was none of her business) and, weirdly, whether I was Native American (duh). She reminded me to call the psychologist, who will determine whether I might need medication. At the state’s expense, not mine, she assured me. I thought, Drugs? This child who doesn’t even know me is talking about drugging my brain?

She offered to rent me a large garbage Dumpster for outside, and when she came back she would show me some sorting techniques.

I’m not an idiot, I barked, jolted back to life by the thought of my things in a Dumpster. I know how to clean, but I don’t have time. Great, a garbage bin; can you also use taxpayer money to hire a cleaning crew to do the work because I’m a single mother with a full-time job! What I really need is time!

We don’t expect perfection, Mrs. Dietrich. We do want to see progress. Please call me if you have any questions. At my doorway, she paused. Turned back. Believe it or not, ma’am, we’re not the enemy here. We are trying to help.

She closed the door behind her, and I listened to the crunching of her shoes across my gravel driveway. I held the papers she’d given me in my hands, not knowing where to put them. I was also still holding my underwear.

I was still standing there when I heard Jack’s bedsprings squeak as he got up to come out to the living room.

I jammed the social worker papers under a grocery bag and threw my panties under the coffee table.

Hi, pal! I said, reaching out to hold him in a hug, carefully avoiding his injured shoulder.

Hi, Mama.

Was school okay today? I wanted to ask, but knew I shouldn’t, What did you tell that social worker?

Fine. Everybody thought my brace was cool. They were bummed they couldn’t sign it, though, like a cast.

Jack was wearing a white Velcro contraption that fastened his left arm to his side, bent at the elbow. The rigging pulled his shoulder back to the proper position to heal a broken collarbone.

And, um . . . Did you talk about how it happened?

Yeah. He looked down at the worn toe of his sneakers. His feet were almost busting through. He wore out his cheap shoes so fast I had a stockpile of spares. They thought it was cool, like a cave collapsed on an explorer.

I imagined the circle of boys, Jack at the center, telling this story, his towheaded bangs bouncing as he elaborated with his one good arm. He always could tell one helluva story, that kid. I imagined a playground aide overhearing, trading looks with another adult, over the boys’ heads.

Um, pal? I ventured.

Yeah? Jack leaned back on the couch. He sat with one ankle crossed over the knee, just like Ron always used to, in that exact same spot on the couch.

I don’t think everybody needs to hear that whole story, do you? I strained to sound casual. I dunno, it just . . . It sounds kind of bad. That my things fell on you. Especially if you go making it sound very . . . dramatic.

I’m sorry, Mama. I already told Ayana, cuz she asked. You always taught me not to lie, right?

I didn’t mean you did anything wrong, I just . . . I just . . . Some things are not other people’s business, is all.

Jack was saying, I told her I didn’t like how it was messy. She asked if I could wave a magic wand and fix anything what would I fix? And I said I’d want the house cleaner. And to have Daddy back here. Did I do something wrong, Mama? She said I shouldn’t lie to her. Lying is bad, isn’t it?

You’re right, of course it is, I said, pulling him toward me gently to hold him, so he wouldn’t see the tears snaking down my face. You did fine. Just fine.

He nuzzled into my side, and I closed my eyes to drink up the moment. Before long he wouldn’t let me hug him anymore, I know. Most of Jack’s classmates already seemed so tough and masculine, their ages not even in double digits yet. And Drew might never come home again, given the events of the last two days.

I think we should clean up around here, though, don’t you, pal?

I could feel him nodding. Yeah. That would be good.

I’m sorry it’s so messy.

What do we always say, Mama?

I smiled, eyes still closed, and we sang out softly together, Mommy’s not perfect!

After Jack drifted off for the night and I came back to the living room to watch TV, I heard a rattling at the front door. I yelped at first, then crept past a pile of storage crates to try to get a look out the front window . . .

The door swung open and I was terrified and then saw it was Andrew.

Drew! You scared me out of my mind!

I texted you I was coming.

I whirled around, trying to remember where I’d put my cell phone. I wish I’d known; I’d have put sheets on your bed.

Drew snorted, tossing his hair as he did so. Like you can even see my bed. I just stopped by for a minute. I need my report card. They mailed them, and I have to get you to sign it and take it back to school.

He brushed abruptly past me without even a hug. It stung, this contrast between sweet Jack who will still nuzzle me, and my older son who doesn’t even live here anymore, truth be told. Just like Mary did to our mother, he hightailed it out of here. Every night, he sleeps at his girlfriend’s parents’ house. Why her parents allow that I haven’t the foggiest idea but if he creeps in her room and gets her pregnant, I will bash his punk rock head in.

He grabbed papers off a stack on the kitchen table. In the yellow kitchen light his blackened hair glowed almost blue. He was such a handsome young man, always was, and then he had to go and ruin it by putting all that black stuff everywhere. Even his fingernails were black, which would get a boy’s ass kicked back in my day. His high sharp cheekbones gave him a hungry, hawkish look, just like his biological father had.

By the way, I had an interesting day at school, he snarled, still snapping his way through my papers.

How so? I asked, though I already knew.

A social worker came to talk to me. Now that was a laugh riot. They called me down to the office, and I could see all those office ladies staring at me and wondering why a social worker is coming to visit me at school.

I didn’t know they were going to do that, I offered weakly.

She wanted to know if I’m doing drugs, if I’m drinking, if anyone beats on me. Not that she said it exactly like that, but I get the idea. So after a while she’s leading me to talk about the house and it dawns on me—oh, that’s how Jack hurt his arm. Not roughhousing on the playground, right, Mom?

I shifted under his intense gaze. No. Not roughhousing. Some things fell on him here.

Well, you’ll be glad to know that I didn’t tell her you lied to me about what really happened. But I also didn’t tell her that home was a fabulous paradise. I figured she knew better than that already or she wouldn’t have pulled me out of English class. Fuck, I can’t find anything in here. He threw down a fistful of paper and turned to me. So now the doctor reported you, and if you don’t clean up they’ll take Jack away, is that about the size of it?

They’re not going to take Jack away. I’ll just do some cleaning and it’ll be fine.

"Some cleaning? You’ll need a fuckload more than ‘some.’ "

Watch your language.

Where are they gonna send him?

Nowhere! I’m gonna clean!

You’ve ‘cleaned’ before, Mom. And know what happens? You buy a bunch of storage bins and you decide you can’t part with anything and nothing changes. They’ll probably make me live with someone else, too, you know. I’m only seventeen. So unless Miranda’s parents become my guardians, then what—I get shipped off to my dead father’s relatives I don’t even know? Or to Ron?

I doubt it, and anyway, you’ll be eighteen soon . . .

"Almost a year from now. And even assuming you want to clean this time, how are you gonna do it? You can’t do it by yourself."

You can help me, right?

I’ve got school! And you work all day! You gonna hire some magic cleaning elves?

Andrew Dietrich, don’t you start with me.

I don’t know why I bother to start. He shook his head at the table. Forget this, it’s hopeless. I’ll tell them the dog ate my report card and pick one up at the office. I’ll stop by your work so you can sign it.

With that he started toward the door.


You know I like ‘Drew’ now.

Drew, then. How is your report card? Do you know?

All A’s, probably. Just like always.

With that he slammed out of my house and stomped to his rattly old car, back to his girlfriend’s house, leaving me alone with my things.

Chapter 2

When at last I recognized the man on my porch, I thought, Trish is dead; it happened again.

At first he was a stranger to me. When I drew closer, I noticed the leather jacket I’d seen in photos, graffitied as it was with Sex Pistols patches and anarchy symbols. My nephew was seated on my porch steps, hunched forward, his head drooping low like he found it too heavy.

I approached slowly, my arms weighted down by a cardboard box.

He looked up. Those were still Andy’s deep brown puppy eyes, but now they were ringed with black eyeliner and set in a face that was hard and sharp, with a shadow of beard on his chin.

His soft brown hair was dyed an angry black and hung half over his face. He raked his fingers through it—nails also painted black—and stood up.

So tall!

There was so much of him there on my porch that I suffered sensory overload. With some quick mental math I determined he must be seventeen.

Andy, I finally said.

I go by Drew, now.

What’s wrong?

I shifted the box in my arms. Its contents rolled and rattled, and I nudged it back up with my knee.

I didn’t have your number, was all he said. He shoved his hands far down into his pockets. His black jeans were ripped.

It’s a long drive from Grand Ledge.

Not so long.

My feet throbbed in my work shoes, and my shoulder bag slipped down to my elbow, yanking at the box and nearly spilling it. I wished Andrew would offer to take it.

Did something happen to your mother?

Not yet, he replied with a scowl.

Well, come in, I guess, I said, clumping up the steps with my unbalanced load.

Gee, thanks, he replied. I winced, and I hoped he would interpret that as a grimace of effort.

I plopped the box down on the small cement porch near a mat that said WELCOME bordered by cheerful daisies.

His presence unnerved me so much that I bobbled my keys.

A nauseating swell of panic churned as I contemplated letting this young man—my nephew, yes, but a virtual stranger—into my home. I exhaled slowly, from the abdomen, and shoved the door open.

He picked up my box and brought it inside. He stood like a delivery boy just at the threshold. My nephew looked at the box and then asked where to put it with a light, silent shrug. I pointed to a spot along the wall.

He grunted as he deposited it and looked at me with his eyebrows quirked as if to ask a question. I pretended not to notice.

Can I get you something? I asked. Really I had no idea about hospitality. It was something I’d seen people say in movies and TV shows, and it made a certain kind of sense.

He shook his head and lingered in the entryway.

Sit down for goodness’ sake. And, Andy, tell me what’s going on.

It’s Drew. He scanned the room looking for a place to sit. I realized that I should have indicated one for him. I froze in the moment of deciding which chair would be best.

Without waiting for me, he opted for a kitchen chair, so I joined him there, kitty corner to where he sat at my table. I tried not to drum my fingers as he worked up to tell me what the hell brought him to my town house, unannounced, after all this time. . . . I hadn’t seen him since his hobby was doing tricks on his BMX bike.

We need your help, he said, worrying a hangnail next to one of his black-tipped fingers. I thought, bizarrely, he was going to ruin his nail polish doing that.

Help with what? Is she sick?

How long has it been since you’ve seen her place?

I tried to think. It must have been . . . eight years or so. When Jack was born.

It’s been a good while, I answered, seeking comfort in being vague, not sounding quite so awful. I reminded myself Trish had never been to my home. So if we were keeping score, I was still ahead.

It’s gotten worse, Andy—Drew, that is—said, for the first time meeting my eyes directly.

He didn’t have to say what it could be.

How bad?

Jack got hurt. Broke his collarbone.

Oh, God.

That’s not the worst part.

I realized I’d been holding my breath, as if I could freeze time and stop myself from hearing this. It’s amazing how when you wake up some days you have no idea that your life will be inside-out by sunset.

The doctor reported Mom. If she doesn’t clean up, they’re going to take Jack away.

I tried to comprehend Trish’s reaction to this. I lacked the imagination to register her grief.

Where . . . where would he go?

To Ron, probably. He said it like prolly. He’d been looking so much like a grown man I’d forgotten that he himself was actually still a kid.

And you?

He shrugged, slouching down in the chair, crossing his feet at the ankles. That’s when I noticed a glob of dirt slide off his Converse onto my cream-colored carpet. As casually as I could manage, I rose, turned to the kitchen, and pulled a piece of paper towel off the roll. Meanwhile, Andrew said, I stay most of the time at Miranda’s house. Her parents are cool. I’ll be eighteen next year anyway.

I crouched down next to the dirt spot. Andrew yanked his feet back as if I were going to tie his laces together or something. I picked up the dirt gingerly, fearing that if I disturbed the integrity of the blob that more would spill. It could get everywhere.

How can I stop that from happening? I’m not a lawyer or anything. I dropped the paper towel in the trash can and exhaled.

You’ve gotta help her clean. It’s too much for her to do alone.

Well, I mean . . . When?

Now. Tomorrow. It’s the first time since before Ron left that she even acts like she might want to try to clean up. If we don’t act now, we’ll lose our chance forever.

And he was back to sounding like an adult again. I shook my head, raised my hands, helpless. I can’t just drop everything and fly to her side.

Forget it. Andrew stood up, bashing the chair back into place so hard I jumped and my gaze went right to the table, looking for marks. "I don’t know why I bothered, Aunt Mary." His mocking tone highlighted how seldom he’d had occasion to speak those words.

No, wait, I didn’t mean . . .

No, forget it. You’re right. You shouldn’t have to be bothered. It’s not like your nephew’s welfare should concern you at all, or the fact that your own sister could die just like her mother.

With this he was striding across my floor, so tall and fast that he was out the door for that last vicious phrase.

I’ll come! I will, maybe not tomorrow, but . . .

He was already climbing into a car I hadn’t noticed before, parked in front of the next town house down. He threw his arm back at me, too aggressively for a wave. I didn’t think I’d seen a middle finger. Rather, it looked like he was swatting away an annoying bug.

He didn’t burn rubber. He pulled away carefully, even signaling before he joined the light flow of traffic on my sedate suburban street.

My box remained where Andrew put it next to the wall. I hefted it up again and brought it to my kitchen table for sorting. As I passed the spot on the carpet where Andrew’s feet had been, I noticed a smudge. A tiny dot of ashlike dirt remained.

I left my box and went to find my cleaning supplies. OxiClean carpet spray, yellow gloves to protect my hands. I gave the spot a squirt and then a few more, then sat back on the carpet to let the chemicals work their magic.

The shadow of the box felt strange, off-kilter. I’d have to move it soon. I’d have to find places for these work things I used to have at the store, break down the box, and put it in the recycle bin. My work things had to become home things, I supposed. Maybe some of the things wouldn’t be able to transition, and I’d have to get rid of them.

My nephew’s arrival had startled me so much that for a few minutes I’d forgotten about George, and the bookstore, and my sad little cardboard box.

George had looked incongruously cheerful when he opened up the store for the last day of business. I wondered briefly if he was high, or drunk, or something, though that would be out of character for him.

But he called me Mary-Mary with a big gorgeous smile as he swept by me, depositing a steaming coffee at the checkout counter where I was getting the registers ready for our last day. Mary-Mary was his nickname for me, short for Mary-Mary-Quite-Contrary, which other people had tried to use and I always squashed, angrily enough they wouldn’t try to persist. I was well aware of the irony of being cranky about that and would entertain homicidal fantasies every time someone felt pressed to point it out.

George said it with a sense of cheery irony, I thought. Like calling a fat guy Tiny.

So I sipped that coffee and watched the hands spin around the clock all day, a fluttery sensation building in my chest, and even in my hands. I dropped lots of things. I did not dread the closing of the store. I rather anticipated talking to George at the end of the day, finally and at long last no longer his employee. Interests no longer conflicting.

My giddiness increased when he walked by me near the end of the shift and murmured in my ear, Let’s talk in my office after closing.

He’d nudged me as he went by, having dive-bombed this invitation to me, and I allowed my heart to leap. A little experimental flight, to see how it would feel.

So we said good-bye to the last weeping customer and I almost slammed the door on the back of her heels. Some of the people who’d been saddest about our closure had never spent more than $3 on a latte per visit and read our magazines without paying. I wished on those types an uncomfortable rash in a place they couldn’t scratch in public.

I followed George to his office, nearly skipping, feet barely tethered to the ground.

He sat down on his side of his desk—he hadn’t cleaned his off yet—and folded his hands. He beamed out at me, and I sat on my own hands not to leap across his desk and throw myself into his lap.

I’m getting married, he blurted.

I became a mannequin on my chair, my expectant smile frozen to my face.

He took a picture frame that had been sitting on his desk, and he turned it to face me. A lovely young woman with short dark hair in feathery curls smiled out at me from under George’s arm.

Her name is Melissa. I’ll send you an invitation. You’ll have to make sure you tell me if you relocate so I can get your new address. With this he scribbled on a piece of

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  • (4/5)
    Love the book. Realistic, intriguing and emotional. its a must include on the list of books you wanna read!
  • (4/5)
    Great story,,wonderful story line, characters you will fall in love with. If you have some great stories like this one, you can publish it on Novel Star, just submit your story to or
  • (4/5)
    In Keepsake, she explores that most complicated of relationships, as two sisters raised by a hoarder deal with old hurts and resentments, and the very different paths their lives have taken. As always, Riggle approaches important topics poignantly and honestly--including hoarding and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) in her remarkable Keepsake--while writing with real emotional power and compassion about families and their baggage.
  • (5/5)
    A heartwrenching look at a disease that has become coming up more and more through tv shows and the media - hoarding. The reader immediately meets Trish a hoarder who has CPS on her front door due to an accident in her home with her youngest son. Soon after we meet her sister Mary, who has the exact opposite problem an OCD cleanliness thing. Without giving up too much plot, there are reasons why each sister has their issues that are very deep and painful; they must come to terms with their past in order to start living in the present and planning a future.

    As always, I love a story that has two narrators because I feel like you get an even fuller picture of the story through each of their points of view. The one minor thing that kept giving me troubles was the switch between the sisters in the narration and the chapters not being labeled and starting out with I and not knowing exactly who was taking center stage. Call me Miss Obvious, but I like things labeled, so I can quickly find out who is moving the story.

    A book that I would recommend to any pair of sisters to understand how each sister comes out of a childhood affected in a different way. I am a new fan of Kristina Riggle and will definitely be checking out her previous books and will be watching out for her in the future.
  • (3/5)
    This is the story of two sisters; Mary and Trish. Trish is a hoarder and Mary is obsessively clean. They are not close but are soon working together to clean Trish’s home before Child services takes away her child. Together they learn more about each and themselves. Quite a story about hoarding, OCD and dysfunctional families. I enjoyed how the sisters worked together to save Trish’s family and the secrets that have been kept inside for so long. Getting to understand these women was easy as it was told from both points of view.
  • (3/5)
    Interesting novel regarding a family's struggle with hoarding.
  • (4/5)
    Being from the Grand Rapids area as well, it was fun to watch Riggle use area Michigan and Holland references in her book. Beyond that,there were so many interesting things about this book, about hoarding, about relationships that drew me in from the beginning. The only thing I felt was missing was the ending, and finalizing some of the characters. Felt odd to me how she left things with Ron. Did Drew turn himself around? Did Jack pick up on all of the hoarding nuances as well? A good read all together.
  • (5/5)
    All I can say that hasn't been said is after I finished reading this book, I went and read all the rest of her novels. If you like Keepsake you will like the rest of her works.
  • (5/5)
    Rather fascinating novel on the theme of hoarding focusing on two daughters of a hoarding mother - one is compulsively neat and the other a compulsive hoarder herself. They're estranged but reunite to clean the hoarder's house so Child Protective Services doesn't remove her son who was injured when stacks of stuff fell on him. I never considered hoarding a real psychological problem, rather an irritating personality trait, so the novel was relevatory to me. Interesting style written in alternating first person, and well written. Ecommended for an easy and rewarding read.
  • (4/5)
    Kristina Riggle definitely has a gift for writing about serious issues. This novel deals with some difficult situations.Trish is a single mother. She has built a secure world where she feels safe. She is surrounded by all of the things that make her feel comfortable. Trish is a hoarder.This all comes to light, as a crisis when Trish’s son is injured. Children’s Services is called in to investigate, with every intention of removing him from the home.Trish needs help. Her sister, Mary, is her extreme opposite. Mary suffers from compulsive cleaning issues. The sisters must come together, out of a mutual dysfunctional past, to save Trish’s children. In doing this, perhaps they can save each other and themselves.Hoarding often begins as a child, sometimes as an inherited condition. As with many conditions, it comes down to control. Hoarders learn to live seemingly multiple lives, in order to hide things from the world. Sometimes shame is their reason to hide, knowing that they are somehow wrong. Others are truly unaware of the depth or magnitude of their dysfunction. Some hoarders don’t recognize that they have a problem.The family situations that can create hoarders can create the extreme opposite situations, as well. This is illustrated in this novel. In order to control or feel control, some go to the opposite extreme of compulsively cleaning, ridding oneself of things, as a type of personal cleansing.Extremes are never healthy, in any form. Ultimately, to achieve peace one must find balance in our environment and within ourselves.
  • (4/5)
    We tend to move every couple of years. There are all sorts of pros and cons to this fact but one of the big pros is that it tends to keep the household accumulation to a minimum, or at least down to a dull roar. What I mean by this is that every couple of years as we're getting ready to pack up the entire house and schlep ourselves to another state, we take a good look at our possessions and weed them out. There's nothing like knowing you're going to have to unpack and put away all that stuff to make you less sentimental. And yet, each time we move, both before and after the move, we have an enormous amount to haul off to the donation center so obviously we're accumulating each and every day. I can only imagine the sheer volume of things for someone who has never moved and has only tucked everything into their home. But there's another level entirely, that of people who hoard. They acquire and acquire and acquire and are actually incapable of letting go of any of it no matter that their physical possessions can literally be crowding them out of their homes. The main character of Kristina Riggle's newest novel, Keepsake, is just such a person.Trish is a single mom struggling along as best as she can and doing an okay job at it as far as she can tell when Child Protective Services shows up at her door. It turns out that her seven year old son broke his collarbone when things in his room fell over on him. Living conditions have to change in order for the social worker assigned to the case to recommend that Jack remain at home with Trish, a fact that terrifies Trish even while she is outraged that a perfect stranger can mandate this and threaten to take her beloved child from her. While Trish concedes that her home might be a little messy, she maintains that no one is perfect, unable to see her obsession for what it is. Her older son Drew, a teenager who has moved out to live with his girlfriend's family because of his mother's out of control hoarding, enlists the help of his Aunt Mary, the immaculately neat sister who has drifted out of touch with Trish. Mary has just been laid off from her long-time job at an independent bookstore due to its closing and has had to face the reality that her boss, on whom she had harboured a crush for years only bantered with her as one would with a valued employee rather than flirting as Mary had hoped. But this means that Mary has the time to help Trish tackle the disaster of her home and to try and help her face the emotions that pushed her into hoarding in the first place.Although the sisters seem like complete opposites, one a hoarder and one an obsessively tidy neat-freak, they both come from the same place. Their mother was a hoarder as well. And after their parents divorced, in large part because of their mother's disorder, their respective choices of which parent to live with and how to care for their mother drove a wedge between them. Trish sees nothing similar to her mother in her own situation while Mary can only see Trish heading down the same path and taking her beloved boys with her. Banding together to make the house habitable again, Mary enlists the help of their father as well as her long-time friend, a psychiatrist who is taking a break from his job. But clearing out the house is painful and Trish is resistant, vassilating between wanting to kick everyone out and protect her domain and reluctantly allowing them to help her so she doesn't lose Jack. As they slowly work through the house, Trish's psyche and her painful secrets are uncovered as surely and inexorably as the carpet in each room reappears from under the stacks.A sensitive look at the effect of hoarding on families and the underlying causes of such behaviour, this novel goes beyond the surface of the reality shows on the subject and exposes the hurt and pain behind all of it. Trish as a character is likable even as the reader recognizes that she is in complete denial. Her desperate love for and fear of losing little Jack is touching and you'll root for her to overcome the little hobgoblins in her mind, sweep her house out, face her emotions, and rebuild healthy relationships with all those in her life whom she has kept at arm's length in order to hide her hoarding. Mary has her own compulsions in direct contrast to Trish's and although she is initially a colder character than Trish, you can't help but feel sorry for her and the damage she also carries in her heart and mind. Narrated alternately by each of the sisters, the reader is given insight into not only their longstanding family dysfunction and what formed each of them but also the way they each view the world and even each other. Their struggles to overcome the demons that haunt them are valiant and keep the reader invested even when their actions are frustrating. The secrets that are uncovered in the course of the novel are truly surprises but fit the story well. This is a quick and interesting read about compulsions, secrets, relationships, love, and family and will appeal to readers of women's fiction who want a bit heavier theme in their novels.
  • (5/5)
    I truly enjoyed this story of hoarding and the effects on families. Trish had many challenges through out her life and coped the same way as her mother. I think this book helps to enlighten on the subject and brought so many different characters in. This story left me wanting more...did Mary and Seth's relationship grow? did Trish get additional help and keep up with eliminating the clutter? how was Trish and Ron's relationship afterward? After reading, this book made me want to clean my closets, go through boxes packed away for years, and organize. Great Job!
  • (4/5)
    I closed this book with tears. It is a sensitive, insightful and emotional portrayal of both sides. This is a complex disorder and I appreciated the author's way of ending the story. The alternating POVs of the sisters is brilliant as it gives more understanding of their story. Each sister is relatable on some level. Trish's defense mechanism of not being as bad as her mother rings true as we all can justify our behaviors as not as bad as______. Another worthwhile read by Kristina.
  • (5/5)
    A beautifully written book from the prospective of two sisters who need each other in a very different way. Trish seems to be the neediest as she is threatened with the removal of her son from her home because he was injured by falling debris--debris caused by her hoarding. However, Mary needs her sister in a much different way. A single woman approaching her 40s who has recently lost her job, Mary spends time in a sterile home with few friends and seems to lack the confidence to make more. I was hooked by the first chapter as Riggle takes the reader on a journey of self-discovery for both sisters. An interesting look at the dynamics of family and how we often find ourselves dealing with stress. The hoarding aspect of the book was interesting and made me more empathetic of how one might develop this type of coping mechanism. Keepsake is a treasure to read!
  • (3/5)
    Decent book, but overall not that memorable. At times could be a little straightforward and almost made-for-tv-movie-esque, especially in the beginning when the parallels between Trish and her mother were so obvious. The book alternated point of view between Trish (the hoarder) and Mary (her sister), but I found Mary to be the much more compelling character and wish the author would have just stuck with her as the narrator. I felt that the author had a better grasp on her character and Mary seemed like a real and complex person, while I don’t think she necessarily ever “got” the character of Trish. While the author clearly did her research on hoarding, it seemed like the character was just an amalgamation of case study characteristics. I felt the real strength of the novel lay in the interactions and relationship between the sisters.
  • (4/5)
    Trish is a horder. Just like the ones you see on TV. I found her to be a most annoyng, but very believable, character. This was a fun read but with well-developed characters, each with their own set of issues. By the end, I found myself hoping for Trish to succeed. The story is set in Central Michigan, an area I'm familiar with having grown up in Southern Michigan, so that added to the pleasure.
  • (4/5)
    This book is about a woman. Trish, who is a hoarder. Her husband left her because of her hoarding, her oldest son also left her for the same reason, and her youngest son was injured by a pile of junk that fell on him. Now Child Protective Services is mandating that she clean her house to keep custody of her youngest child, Jake. I enjoyed reading this book. My only qualm with it is that it dragged a bit. I think the book could have been a little shorter by eliminating some of the redundant chapters about the clean up but all in all, I really enjoyed the book!
  • (4/5)
    Trish considers herself a messy housekeeper. When a pile of items in her home falls on her son and breaks his collarbone, she realizes that she has a much more serious problem. Child Protective Services tells her she must clean up the house so that it is safe or she might lose her children. Her older son, Drew, realizes that it will be difficult for Trish to accomplish this and he contacts Trish's sister, Mary, asking her to come and help them. Mary and Trish have not been in contact for many years, both of them suffering from the consequences of living with their mother who was also a compulsive hoarder. As Mary and Trish work together to clean up Trish's home, they learn more about each other and uncover long-buried secrets about their mother.Riggle does a great job of exploring the phenomenon of compulsive hoarding and how it affects families. It's a quick read and difficult to put down once started.
  • (4/5)
    Trish and Mary have been estranged for many years. They both feel they were wronged by the other and neither is able to see the others side. Both women are dealing with the consequences of a childhood fraught with their Mother’s mental illness. Trish seems to have followed in her Mother’s footsteps and inherited her same bad habits while Mary has gone in exactly the opposite direction. When tragedy strikes at Trish’s home, her oldest son goes to find his Aunt Mary, whom he barely knows, to ask for her help. As lives are put back together & sisters heal open wounds they both find that family is important and can be counted on even when pushed away.The book is written from each sisters point of view. While one chapter is Trish's the next is Mary's, so you really get to see both sides of the coin.I really enjoyed this book. There was a lot of raw emotion and deep pain, but in the background there was always the knowledge that family is family, even with all its warts. It is hard not to know a little about the overlying subject of this book with all of the reality/self-help shows on TV, but this makes the illness more clear. I will admit that I don’t fully understand the mentality of a hoarder and why they just can’t let things go, but I found the book to help explain something’s to me, even thought it is a work of fiction. I think this would appeal to sisters, those that have a hoarding problem, or those that have family with a hoarding problem. I do agree with several other reviewers when they said that the end was needing something. The characters could have both had better endings. The story line seemed to hum along and then just come up a bit short.
  • (4/5)
    While the subject matter of this book is a little disturbing, the story itself was really compelling. Trish is on the verge of losing her son after he's injured at home as a result of her hoarding. As her various family members step in to help her clean up, it's not just garbage and junk that is exposed to all. Family secrets are revealed, relationships are renewed, and truth comes out. If you like the A&E show "Hoarders", you'll like this book. This story is essentially the fictionalized version of a "Hoarders" episode.I had a hard time putting this book down, because as bits and pieces of the past were revealed, I wanted to keep reading to find out the whole story. I liked the alternating points of view, seeing the story alternately through Trish's eyes, and in every other chapter, through her sister Mary's view.As another reviewer stated, the ending was somewhat disappointing, in that it seemed to just come to a halt, with not enough resolution of each character's story. But overall, I enjoyed this read, and can recommend this book.
  • (4/5)
    I received this book as an advance read. I struggled through about the first four chapters, literally I couldn't STAND Trish, one of two sisters featured in the book. Trish is losing her family, and she continues to live in denial...buried under the emotional weight of her "stuff." When her young son is injured by falling items, CPS steps in. Her semi estranged family comes to help, and it's then the book starts working. The chapters alternate between Trish and her sister, Mary, who is compulsively neat. The book then delves into their childhood, Trish's divorce, the children and how our past can't be re-written, but we can make changes. They aren't easy...but sometimes it's something the threat of losing one's child, that forces us, kicking and screaming, to change. Ultimately, I couldn't stop reading after about 1/3 of the it deserved the 4.
  • (4/5)
    This was such an interesting story dealing with how OCD - Hoarding affects all members of the family. It was fascinating to read a story dealing with such a different concept--something so totally foreign to me. In this story, a single mother of two boys must rise to the challenge of this "illness" in order to keep the boys from being taken away from her when the youngest is injured by a stack of hoarded items falling. Family secrets are revealed in the telling of this tale. I devoured the book, but was disappointed with the ending. Perhaps the author plans a sequel to this story! I am pleased to have been selected by LibraryThing to review this book.