What We Keep

What’s it about?

Two sisters who believe they were abandoned by their mother in the ’50’s make a journey to California to see her for the first time in thirty-five years. The novel goes back and forth in time, showing one of the sister on the airplane headed west, juxtaposed with her memories of the summer before their mother left with the mysterious woman who moved in next door.

What was the inspiration?

This was one of those novels that just wrote itself. I began by writing about a single woman who moved into a house in a conventional suburban neighborhood, not knowing who she was or why she was there. The novel told me who she was (and what she represented) as I went along. One of the issues addressed in this book is what our mothers owe us, and what we owe them. Mostly, though, it is about forgiveness and the endurance of love.


What We Keep book cover
Random House – 1998

“You often had the feeling that something dark and uneasy was going on with my mother; but she would not acknowledge it, nor allow anyone else to. After Jasmine moved in, that internal storm grew fiercer and fiercer in my mother, eventually leading her to make a decision that felt inevitable, if astoundingly painful. I wonder how much of that pain she predicted and how much of it was a black surprise.”

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