It seems as if more and more taboos are being aired like dirty laundry. Television, books, even the internet, have exposed secrets that most of us prefer to keep hidden. Hoarding, the current taboo, has its own television series. Whenever I'm channel surfing and come across the show, I shudder. I know people who hoard. It isn't a pleasant sight. It's private; it's something that the public doesn't need to see. It's a problem that should be handled with discretion, and only between families, friends, and mental health experts. Sure, it's great to have a conversation about it, but to see the actual hoarding leaves me feeling embarrassed.
I've found a few books that deal with the subject of hoarding: 'Stuff', by Randy Frost and Gail Stekelee, and 'Dirty Secret', by Jessie Sholl. Both are very informative, but leave the reader feeling a bit uncomfortable, which, I suspect, is the aim.
And so it is with the new novel, 'Objects of My Affection', by Jill Smolinski. However, I didn't feel uncomfortable about the hoarding itself; it was the way the characters dealt with their personal problems. One builds a 'wall' of objects; the other gets rid of her own objects in order to justify her choices. The novel is quite engaging and humorous, yet the hoarding obsession lingers in your mind...and that is what drives the story.
Lucy Bloom has sacrificed everything for her drug-addicted son; she has lost the man she loves, and she sells her home in order to send her son to rehab. The author of a book about home organizing, Lucy is offered a job to help declutter the home of famous artist, Marva Meier Rios. Although it is Marva's son, Will, who hires Lucy, it is Marva who wants the job done...on a deadline. Lucy rolls up her sleeves and dives in to rid the home of the clutter, but she finds that her greatest challenge is dealing with Marva, a formidable woman who has a strong attachment to most of the objects and finds it hard to let go of them. Lucy soon learns that in order to stand up to Marva, she must find her backbone, and in the process, stand up to not only her son, but her own mistakes.
While some people would write this novel off as 'Chick Lit', I found it very appealing and eye-opening. I loved the chemistry between Lucy and Marva. Of course, there's Nico, the physical laborer who provides great sexual tension, but it is Daniel, Lucy's ex-boyfriend, who seems so real. He tried to make Lucy see the truth, but was pushed away, instead.
We all sacrifice something; either for our children, our friends, our families. But, first and foremost, we need to think about ourselves and what is best for our lives. Once we remove the clutter and gain the strength to face our fears, we can see what's really important.