By Rachel Cline
Random House Publishing
"What to Keep" by Rachel Cline is an enjoyable novel about Denny Roman. Most of the story is set when Denny is a young girl dealing with the foibles of being a pre-teen, having divorced parents, and a special adult friend named Maureen who also happens to be what we consider today to be a "household manager" for Denny's parents. Denny bonds with Maureen, mostly because Maureen actually looks at her and considers her to be real. Denny's own mother is absorbed in her work and herself and often forgets she even has a child. As Denny grows up, the story almost becomes more her mother's story; why she is the way she is, why she reacts to Denny the way she does, and how that affects her later in life.
The story then jumps to Denny as a young adult, finding her way in the world as an aspiring actress, she gets a phone call to come home and decide "what to keep" when her mother and her new husband decide to move away from the only home Denny has ever known as home. This part of the story was especially interesting to me, although I didn't feel like the author really fleshed it out as much as she could have. This trip back home almost reminded me of the movie Garden State, in the way Denny viewed the items from her childhood, and even her old childhood haunts. There were a few parts of the story that I really didn't feel were necessary (like a completely weird and bizarre kiss between Denny and her mother's new husband), but for the most part, I felt like this part of the story was meant to make the reader look at their own life and think about what we would keep if we were in her situation.
The final segment of the story brings us to a fully adult Denny in her mid-30s, single and a playwright living in New York, when a blast from the past shows up on her door. Denny has to make an important decision (What to keep?) yet again, and this time, for the first time in her life, her mother steps up and makes the right choice in giving to her daughter in a way she never has before in their entire relationship together.
This was really an enjoyable book. It would be great for a bookclub or, really, for anyone interested in a mild introspective about life. Cline does a good job of creating characters that are believable and, even in their darkest hours, likeable. 4 bookmarks from me for this one!