Book #06

The Keeper of Stories by Sally Page

She can’t recall what started her collection. Maybe it was in a fragment of conversation overheard as she cleaned a sink? Before long (as she dusted a sitting room or defrosted a fridge) she noticed people were telling her their stories. Perhaps they always had done, but now it is different, now the stories are reaching out to her and she gathers them to her.

When Janice starts cleaning for Mrs B – a shrewd and tricksy woman in her nineties – she meets someone who wants to hear her story. But Janice is clear: she is the keeper of stories, she doesn’t have a story to tell. At least, not one she can share.

Mrs B is no fool and knows there is more to Janice than meets the eye. What is she hiding? After all, doesn’t everyone have a story to tell?

What a gorgeous and heartwarming story this is; I’ve come away feeling so fuzzy and fulfilled.

It’s sickening that in this day and age, human beings are judged and placed into categories based on their job. This seeps into how people think about themselves - Janice here believes herself to be ‘just’ a cleaner, and yet goes on to tell us how she continuously and determinedly improves and enriches lives. All lives with the exception of her own, it seems.

We know from Maslow that a sense of connection is one of our human needs, and Janice seems to struggle with this, partly through no fault of her own, and partly due to a past trauma she alludes to briefly. We hear all about the stories she’s collected from others, and little about her own story. Until she meets Mrs B. and one of the first questions out of that wonderful woman’s mouth is “what’s your story?”

Page’s prose is so simple, yet impossible to tear your eyes from. I launched through this one with an unquenchable thirst to hear more of Janice’s collected stories, and to finally discover her own. We’re given a lot of humour peppered with devastation - after all, not all stories are happy ones - but Page makes sure we’re rewarded with the fuzzy feels as much as possible. It’s the promise of hope (or Hope?), that propelled me through.

I found this an incredible tale of finding yourself, and finding exactly what you need; breaking away from comfortable, if unfulfilling, routine and throwing yourself into the universe to be tossed around at will. There’s community, there’s the kindness of others, and most of all there’s the lesson of giving kindness to ourselves.