People with hoarding disorder excessively accumulate items others view as superfluous. They’re unable to part with these possessions, and this stockpiling leads to clutter that detrimentally effects their lives. It’s easy to be derisive about it; caricaturize it; exaggerate the consequence rather than consider the cause, or provide a semblance of psychological insight. Most of us don’t form perpetual emotional attachments to the objects we gather during our lives. Some objects have greater meaning; others none at all. We catch and release with reckless abandon.
But Nic, one of the three central characters in Emily Maguire’s “Love Objects,” is unable to do this. She glimpses an ethereal beauty in her vast assemblage of things; not just their aesthetic appeal. She doesn’t perceive the clutter; just objects that demand salvation, and a place inside her home. Never mind this minefield almost leads to her death, were it not for the intervention of paramedics, led by her niece Lena, who find Nic sprawled among her vast detritus, having been trapped briefly in a kaleidoscope of memories.
With Nic laid up in hospital it falls upon Lena and her older brother Will to tidy their aunt’s home. Maguire captures each of these characters at a moment of monumental upheaval. The “cleansing” of Nic’s home is the nucleus of the novel, from which Maguire unlades the chaos of their lives: an illicit sex tape featuring Lena has been made public; a mistake Will made years earlier continues to cast a long, dark shadow as he struggles with unemployment and a breakup. They are bonded by blood and multigenerational trauma, and Maguire unspools their histories with extraordinary artistry.
Indeed, nothing about “Love Objects” feels contrived, archetypal or predestined, and it never coils towards melodrama. It’s an emotionally complex character-focused novel, weighted by issues of class and wealth, possession and intervention, and gender dynamics. Once again, Maguire proves herself unparalleled at rendering complex emotions with clarity and sympathetic intelligence.