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One Man’s Trash is Another Man’s Treasure

The Memory Collectors by Kim Neville (Atria Books)


“Her head is like a snow globe, a blizzard of glitter, a thousand tiny plastic flakes reflecting too many colors for her mind to track.  She closes her eyes and waits for the settling.”

March 16, 2021

Dear Mr. Hemingway,

Memories, memories, memories.  Yes they live in our minds and in our hearts, but they are also nestled in the physical possessions that have come and gone from our lives.  I can look around my house at any given moment and be reminded of a time in my life.  My kitchen table alone evokes more memories than I can count.  It was passed down to me from my sister-in-law and was passed down to her from someone else.  Looking at this table instantly brings me back to arts and crafts done with my children years ago, family meals, homework drama, poker games and then some.  What if being in the presence of this table allowed me to experience the memories that others have had at this table before it came into my home.  This kitchen table has lived a thousand lives before me and I can’t imagine taking on its most intimate secrets from the past.  Kim Neville takes on this fantastic concept in her powerful debut novel, The Memory Collectors. Her fictional tale dives deep into the world of memories and how they can shape,define and even sometimes destroy us… if we let them.  Let’s take a look.

Evelyn is in her early twenties and has a mysterious capability that plagues her.  She can feel the emotions from the objects around her.  Objects and things are “stained” with memories that emit energy that Evelyn can deeply feel.  She can sense the weight of everything around her from the joy a stuffed animal brought to a child to the despair that seeps out of a lost button.  Her mind is in overdrive at all times and the energy she experiences from the world around her brings more fear to her life than joy.  She believes that objects with negative energy carry a danger and must be handled with care.   

“Most of Ev’s objects are stained with love or nostalgia.  Those are the easiest to sell, both for Ev’s wallet and her conscience.  She has pocket watches and pendants, fishing reels and baby rattles.  Some of them vibrate with longing-a compact mirror, a dog-eared copy of The Sun Also Rises.  She always has one or two items stained with lust.  This week it’s a shooter glass with a chip in the rim.”

Now lets meet Harriet.  Harriet is an older woman with a similar “skill set” so to speak.  On the outside she presents as a hoarder of stuff, but in reality she is a collector of treasures.  When circumstances force Harriet to move out of her apartment, she decides to create a museum with all of her treasures channeling the different energies they release.  

“She doesn’t normally shop in stores such as these, cheap ones full of new, vacant things.  Retail stores disturb her, rows and rows of empty objects.  Products with no souls, no energy, people buying and discarding them before they have a chance to take on any kind of life, the world growing more cluttered and at the same time more barren each day.”

In order to take on this overwhelming task, she reaches out to Evelyn, who she knows has similar talents.  She is hoping Evelyn can curate these objects in a way that uses their liveliness to heal or inspire those who come into their space. As the story unfolds, the past rears its ugly head and we learn more about these two women and the complexities of their lives.  Dark pasts, haunting memories and the need to live a more peaceful life torment them both daily.  As they work together and their lives merge closer, there is one question that begs to be answered.  Are these women a curse to one another or a blessing?  

“For better or worse, they belong to her.  She feels the flutter of her panicked heart as the shadows gather around her, the memories caged here, piled one on top of another.  The enormity of it overwhelms her and she can think of nothing else but her need to run away.  She presses down the flaps of the box and edges outside into the cool, early evening air, closing the door on all of it with an air of finality.”

If that sounds wild to you, stay with me.  Neville’s story is fiction at its finest with a splash of magical realism.  Even though there is a hint of sorcery, her tale isn’t that far fetched.  I connected with this story because I believe that possessions exhale energy on a daily basis. There are reasons why I  surround myself with things that bring me joy (thanks Marie Kondo), but that is not always the case for everyone else.  Evelyn and Harriet narrate the story in alternating chapters.  They are not the warmest or fuzziest characters on the block and their stories unveiled the truth one chapter after another.  Neville is a beautiful writer who flawlessly captures her character’s anguish and grief.  Emotions are high in her book and they bled into my reading experience page after page, leaving me wanting more.  The pacing of The Memory Collectors fascinated me.  The slow and steady start attracted me to the story right away.  As I settled into this mesmerizing tale, the momentum began to pick up.  Before I knew it, this contemporary fictional novel with a hint of fantasy turned into a suspenseful and gripping story that had me on the edge of my reading seat.  And finally, let’s not forget the supporting cast that not only compliment our leading ladies, but have their own story to tell.  A big shout out to Owen the artist, Noemi (Evelyn’s sister) and Brett (who I need to know more).  The Memory Collectors was a pleasant surprise that left me a very happy reader.

Cheers to an amazing book!

Your Biggest Fan,

Kelly

P.S.  Happy Pub Day to Kim Neville and her book, The Memory Collectors.  Click on the book pic below to grab yourself a copy!

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