Everyone has lost something or someone at some point in their life. Sometimes the loss is small, like misplacing your keys. Other times the loss is great, like losing your great grandma’s locket. While some items may be found again, others are lost forever, potentially impacting our lives profoundly. In The Keeper of Lost Things, by Ruth Hogan, we meet one such person, whose profound lose of a single, sentimental item, changes the course of his life, and ultimately the lives of many others along his journey.
The Keeper of Lost Things is one of the greatest pieces of literature I have read in my adult life. That may sound like a very serious statement about a relatively new work of fiction, but no story has touched me so deeply since I was a child. Every thought and idea presented is brought to completion, with vignettes that bring you to the brink of tears then pull you back with laughter. The main plot ebbs and flows like a river through a valley of heartbreak, joy, and fulfillment.
The book opens with the pivotal character, Anthony, who has spent the better part of his life collecting lost items. An umbrella, a single glove, even a tin of ashes come to live in Anthony’s collection. Due to his own loss, a medallion his late wife had given to him, Anthony comes to believe that each and every item he finds is potentially very meaningful to the owner, and Anthony choses to keep these items until they can be returned. Although he never quite figured out how to return the items that came to him for safe keeping; as his life is nearing its end, he bestows, not only his home and worldly possessions, but also the collection of lost things to his assistant, Laura, entrusting her with the daunting task of locating the owner’s of as many lost things as possible.
As Laura takes hold of her new home and new purpose, the reader has the privilege of experiencing Laura’s growth into a dependent and confident woman. While we learn that the catalyst for change happened years before, when she divorced her husband, it is not until she begins to explore the job Anthony left for her that she truly finds herself. Interwoven within the story of Laura and the aftermath of Anthony’s death, are the stories of the lost items and the people who lost them. While most of the stories are brief insights into how the items were lost, one story is consistently intertwined and ultimately poignantly connected to the beginning of Anthony’s journey as The Keeper of Lost Things.