The People We Keep. Wow. This is a beautiful story of love, loss, and learning that just whisks you away, fully pulling you in and making you just feel so invested that her hurts are your hurts. This is the kind of book that fills up your heart like a balloon. The kind that when you read the last sentence, your eyes fill with tears and you worry your heart just might burst because it is so exquisite. It’s about finding who you are, and how to stop running from who you are.
It’s 1994, and 16 year old April lives in a motor-less motorhome, a dilapidated half of a home on wheels that her father won in a poker game. The town is fine to gossip about her family, but she’s treated as a social pariah because of the sins of her parents. She has only two friends: her boyfriend, Matty, who dreams up a life for her she doesn’t want; and Margo, her dad’s ex-girlfriend who has mothered her more than her own mother ever did. When the straw breaks the camel’s back, April has decided enough is enough and runs away.
This beautiful, heart-wrenching novel is divided into three parts, as April forges ahead to make a new kind of life for herself. Though she is wise in some ways, she is incredibly naive in others. Although April doesn’t behave in a particularly likable way, her mix of uncertainty and gumption make her endearing and lovable. Her guitar playing and songwriting help her process her trauma, and are some of the only times she is authentically herself.
The characters in this novel are intricately developed. Though the cast is wide, there’s no struggle to recall who meant what to her and where they fit in the puzzle of her life; they’re all well crafted and memorable such that you know precisely who they are. This novel is an ode to friendship, a beautiful tapestry of the people who impact April’s life, for better or worse.
I always enjoy Larkin’s books. But this– this is one of those books you carry with you in your heart, a beloved, cover-worn-soft kind of book that you never let go of and return to again and again.
The People We Keep by Allison Larkin will be available August 3, 2021, from Gallery Books. Thank you to NetGalley and Gallery Books for an advanced copy such that I could write this review.