The People We Keep by Allison Larkin (384 pages)
Love and Family are Redefined in The People We Keep
April Sawicki is no stranger to being alone and fending for herself. At 16, she lives on the outskirts of a small town in a motorhome. Her father hardly bothers to visit since starting over with a new girlfriend and kid. Though she has a boyfriend who envisions a small-town life for them in Little River, New York, April knows this place will never quite feel like home. A fight with her father settles her decision, and she escapes to Ithaca to make a life for herself with nothing more than her guitar and love of music.
In Ithaca, April is surprised to find people who not only welcome her, but warmly accept her into their lives. As she falls more in love with the funky town, the local coffee shop where she works, and the few friends who have drawn close, she believes she just might be able to put down roots. However, the abandonment April has known since childhood doesn’t disappear simply because she did. Fearing she’ll hurt these new loved ones the way she has been hurt in the past, April flees .
Over the years, she finds solace in her music and songwriting. Living on the money she makes from playing shows, April traverses through life meeting all sorts of souls–ones who try to hurt her, ones who cannot possibly understand her, and ones who only wish to love her in a way she doesn’t believe is possible.
“We have people we get to keep” – Allison Larkin
A heartfelt journey of love and loss, April’s story is perfectly captured by the novel’s title. Though its story spans both years and geographical distance, The People We Keep is better mapped by April’s encounters and relationships with different characters. Driven in equal parts by her pain and longing, April lives in a constant battle between drawing people near and avoiding the inevitable complexities of loving others. When her story eventually ends, April is surrounded by the people she has chosen to keep over the years–some in her memory, some in her heart, and some just down the street.
The Bottom Line: 4/5 stars
While The People We Keep centers around April’s experiences, the nature of her story makes it possible for readers to meet and fall in love with many different characters. I’m often drawn to novels told from multiple perspectives, so this read made for a wonderful surprise (that felt a little like cheating). At times frustrating, the direction of the story often forced me to say hello or goodbye to certain characters before I felt ready. In this way, Larkin manages to enforce this idea about the say we have in choosing the people we keep. Even as April found her people to keep, I enjoyed finding characters who I know I also will keep with me
Loved the review? Why not host a event with The People We Keep.
Taylor Stawecki is a 20-something Michigander with a love for the great outdoors and written word. She spends her weekdays working for a digital marketing company and as a freelance copywriter. In her free time, you can find her reading, writing poetry, running, watching a Grey’s Anatomy rerun, or spending time with her family and friends. As an old soul, she enjoys collecting salt and pepper shakers and cuddling up in oversized sweaters.