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The story of Keepsake Self Storage starts with a “body” floating down the Connecticut River. However, May Hammond is wrong about the ominous looking blob, as she finds out later when the police investigate to find a bag of old clothing. Nevertheless, a body-shaped bag of debris turns out to be a metaphor for the madness that ensues as the tale regresses into a madcap chain of events that sends all parties involved into tornado-like whirlwind of emotion and chaos, sweeping the characters up and spinning them out of control.
May is well beyond 70, as is her volatile lover, Canadian-born Avola LeFebre. The two women have been a couple for years, but May has put off Avola’s invitations to move in with her over and over again. One of May’s concerns is her son, Earl. At forty-seven, he still lives at home with May and doesn’t seem to have much ambition. He works as little as possible at the Keepsake Self Storage facility and relaxes with a joint now and then, blowing smoke out his bedroom window. He thinks May knows nothing about his recreational drug use, but he is mistaken. There’s something a little off about Earl but it’s not what the reader may think. When a dead body materializes at the storage facility, Earl’s computer and other personal items are seized from his home by the police. Earl decides there’s only one way to remove himself from police scrutiny—he hits the road without telling a soul.
Once the initial hubbub dies down, Avola hopes Earl’s extended absence is her chance to make a life together with May, but those dreams have been dashed by May’s friend Vera, after Vera’s house catches on fire and she moves in with May. Vera definitely puts a cramp in Avola’s style, but Avola has more issues than just her frustration with May’s inaccessibility. However, it remains to be seen whether or not she will ever be able to confront her own demons.
Earl’s problems compound as he runs all over the country seemingly without logic, making one bad decision after another, getting himself into trouble from which he seems unlikely to be able to extract himself. At home, May keeps Avola at arm’s length, partly afraid to be herself and partly because of Avola’s explosive personality. Avola holds such deep-seated trauma in her heart from events long ago that she doesn’t even realize what makes her so easily upset. This cast of characters is traveling on a trajectory toward either deliverance or destruction. Either way, the momentum can’t be stopped.
While Avola retreats to Cape Cod to a friend’s house to make sense of her reactions that alienate the one person she wants close to her, her outspoken long-time friend tries to put her back on track. Meanwhile, May gets a life-changing call that sends her on a journey she never imagined she’d have to take and Earl finds his search for the mysterious “blue lady” might finally bring him some peace. In the midst of all this, Avola finally confronts her past trauma, hoping to open a path back to May.
What appears at first to be a crazy “Keystone Cops” type of madcap folly is deceiving. Slowly, the path winds back on itself to become a study in the human condition, and all the ways people seek or eschew healing. Banks has given us a deviously zany story, the beginning of which seems humorous and slightly off-kilter. However, as the tale progresses, a new story is revealed about deep wounds of the psyche and the harm that can be done in living for appearances. This triad of characters offers interesting perspective to move the story along, and motivations, although not always what they appear to be, are key. Keepsake Self Storage is a story that is more than it seems at first glance. It will keep the reader wondering where the next turn of events will lead and hoping that chaos can eventually turn to calm.
Keepsake Self Storage
By Marianne Banks
Paperback,9781594933950, 220 pp.