The Memory Collectors by Kim Neville is a character study driven by a unique magical-realism premise: what if our emotions left stains on the objects around us?

Evelyn can feel the motherly love emanating from a baby blanket, the frustration pounded into a piano’s keys. She uses her skill to sell stained objects—it isn’t the trinkets people want to buy but the emotions attached to them. The problem comes when dark emotions like anger, greed, and pain flow out of objects and into Ev, impacting her own fragile sense of herself.

This novel was darker than I’d anticipated, and grapples with the impact of trauma over the course of people’s lives. But this isn’t a story without hope. It is also a beautiful meditation on empathy and how we connect with those we allow into our lives. It is about the transformative power of connection to heal our deep wounds. It is about what we carry through life, and how we carry it.

I loved the way this novel took a real phenomenon—how objects can make us feel—and cranked that phenomenon up to a magical fervor. That your childhood stuffie could be imbued with all the love you gave it over the years doesn’t seem so far fetched. It feels like a comforting possibility. But the problem is that warm and fuzzy feelings aren’t the only ones that would stain our possessions. And that is a bit frightening, as Ev’s story proves.

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