Gloria Frensham is in a bad place at the beginning of The Woman Who Kept Everything, by Jane Gilley. If the title wasn’t enough to clue you in to Gloria’s problems, the first sentences the describe Gloria navigating her extremely cluttered, nasty smelling home in an attempt to make a cup of tea. She might have been content(ish) to go on living as a hoarder except that a blown fuse tips off the authorities and her very angry son. That blown fuse means that Gloria is suddenly homeless and without her possessions.
The plan, Gloria is told, is for her to temporarily go to a nursing home for some intense therapy for her hoarding, before going to live with her son and his family. This part was the least satisfying for me, because it glosses over the hard work it must have taken for Gloria to come to terms with her urges to collect and keep. After that, the book picks up. Gloria can only stand to live with her son, Clegg, who struggles with anger the way she does with hoarding, for a few days before she starts to look for an out. Fortunately for her, her longtime friend Tilsbury shows up with a scooter and an offer of tea—which leads to Gloria going on the lam.
Gloria’s escape takes her to rediscover an old friend who’s hoarding and house are in even worse shape than hers was and to visit London and Eastbourne for the first time. Most importantly, Gloria finds her metaphorical feet again. She stops letting her son boss her around, reclaims her funds, and finds a new home for herself. Not only that, but she finds Gloria again. Her wit and take-no-crap attitude make The Woman Who Kept Everything hilarious. Even though the book tackles uncomfortable issues, Gloria’s attitude keeps things surprisingly breezy.
I had a lot of fun reading The Woman Who Kept Everything.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration. It will be released 3 December 2018.
Notes for bibliotherapeutic use: I would strongly recommend this book for people looking for something to give them hope about seemingly intractable family problems.