Trigger warning for domestic violence in the form of coercion and gaslighting.
Nicole has always believed that she is a fuck up. The protagonist of Other People’s Things, by Kerry Anne King, has just had her marriage blow up, a criminal history, no job, and a significant percentage of her family isn’t happy with her for all of the above. The root cause of all this is something that Nicole thinks of as a curse. Every now and then she will feel an unbearable compulsion to take an object, followed by an equally unbearable compulsion to leave that object somewhere else. Nicole says this is relocation; that she is simply moving things to where they want them to be. Everyone else calls this theft. I was prepared to call it theft, too, but I started to seriously wonder well before the end of this deeply satisfying book.
Nicole’s first attempt to get a job after her latest catastrophe doesn’t last long. While working on her first two jobs for her sister’s cleaning company, she moves a book from one house to the other. The client whose book was taken is surprisingly calm about the whole thing, although she didn’t get a chance to finish that secondhand copy of Dante’s Inferno. The second client, however, completely comes unglued when she sees the book and sees an inscription inside that reveals it to be the property of someone she’s been hiding from for thirty years. Nicole loses her job and is right back where she started, except that her soon-to-be-ex-husband is getting impatient for her to return the money she took from him before he kicked her out.
I hope this description captures the way King blends whimsy with very serious interpersonal problems, because this is what Other People’s Things was like to read. Nicole—and her new protector, Hawk, a PI who switched sides for Nicole after being hired by her husband—provide a lot of the levity and warm fuzzies in this book. I loved watching them fall in love with each other without trying to let on. I also loved watching scheme to take down Nicole’s increasingly appalling spouse, as well as investigate the secrets hinted at by Nicole’s objects. The horrible husband and those secrets kept the whimsy grounded enough to keep the whole story from getting too twee for me to finish. To be honest, the way that Nicole’s gift/curse set things in motion felt deeply satisfying to me. I know a lot of readers will roll their eyes at too many coincidences, but I have a special place in my heart for books that make it seem like the universe knows what it’s doing.
Other People’s Things was a marvelous read, in every sense of the word. I would absolutely recommend it to readers who can cope with the scenes in which Nicole’s soon-to-be-ex gets violent.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley, for review consideration.
Notes for bibliotherapeutic use: I would recommend this to readers who feel like a screw-up in their lives and would like a story in which the screw-up not only turns out not to be a screw-up, but also becomes the hero. With a hot boyfriend.