Lucy Bloom is having a rough year. After finally facing her 19-year-old son’s drug addiction, she’s decided to send him to a rehab facility — but has no way to pay for it. Determined to help Ash no matter the cost, she sells her house and personal possessions, eventually finding herself sharing a room with a friend’s toddler. She’s recently split from her boyfriend, Daniel, after he grew too tired of dealing with Lucy’s denial to stick around. Oh, and she’s now unemployed.
Officially adrift, Lucy relies upon the mediocre success of a de-cluttering book she wrote to get a new gig helping a high-profile client — who happens to be both an artist and a hoarder — empty her home. Now well-versed in letting things go, Lucy sets to work help Marva Meier Rios decide what should stay and what should go . . . all in relative secrecy, of course, as Marva’s fame is sure to attract unsavory media attention. But as Lucy gets to know the cantankerous artist, she realizes some things — some big things — just might be worth saving.
Jill Smolinski’s Objects Of My Affection is an entertaining story with more heart than I expected. Having read and enjoyed Smolinski’s The Next Thing On My List years ago, I’m familiar with the author’s humor — which is just the right amount of self-deprecating and laugh-out-loud silly. Though hoarding itself is not funny, Marva’s outlandish personality is. And the fact that Lucy has to grow a spine and stand up to her? Even better.
Though I occasionally sided with Daniel, Lucy’s estranged boyfriend, in the push-and-pull dynamics associated with parenting a teenager like Ash, I couldn’t help but feel for Lucy. She’s a single mother, a woman who has given up so much in return for so little — and I couldn’t imagine the feeling of suddenly finding yourself both unemployed and homeless. Now a thirty-something vagabond, Lucy is doing the best she can with her limited resources. And though it would be easy to cast “blame” on her regarding her son’s addiction, I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do in a similar circumstance. It wouldn’t be pretty.
Objects Of My Affection isn’t a romance in any traditional sense, but there is quite a bit of love here: love between Daniel and Lucy, who I desperately hoped would work things out; love between Lucy and her son, of course, even when things are complicated; love between Marva and her son, who doesn’t think he’s ever measured up to the affection his mother feels for her paintings. And there’s Marva’s love affair with stuff — tons of it. And everywhere. As Lucy made inroads toward clearing Marva’s California estate, my stomach turned. The artist’s anxiety practically shimmered on the page . . . and I can’t imagine having to disperse my worldly possessions by a certain date. Even if it’s self-imposed.
Though some aspects of the plot are predictable, I loved the dynamic between Lucy and Daniel and feel like Smolinski’s novel is a grown-up version of the coming-of-age tale. For one who has had her blinders on for so long, Lucy waking from the ignorance of her son’s problems and subsequently creating a whole new life was inspiring. And it certainly got me thinking about what I need — and don’t need — hanging around.
4 out of 5!