Things is a Page Turner You Won't Want to Put Down
When I first picked up Francine Garson’s debut novel, Things, I was excited to read it knowing it was based in my home state of New Jersey. It’s rare for me to find a fiction book based in my state. But as I started reading it, I quickly realized, “I can’t put this book down.” Ms.Garson did such a fantastic job of making you suspend disbelief and get so attached to the characters. You’ll find yourself comforting them, cheering them on, even yelling at them as you read the story.
What is Things About?
Things is a contemporary fiction novel with drama, romance, and comedy mixed in. We are introduced to Jenny Gilbert as she’s purchasing an apartment; her second apartment. Why? The reason she gave her landlord, Mrs. Thornton, is, “for…uh…storage,” which is, technically, true. However, there’s more to it. Her second apartment became her true home. It’s not only the place where she houses all of her things, it’s where she feels the most at home. Ever since leaving her parents to go off to college, all she wanted to do was find a place where she felt at home with mementos of a childhood she never had. With this second apartment, she finally had that.
We learn throughout the book that Jenny was an “army brat.” Her father was in the military, but he worked in the financial department. They still moved, though, from base to base and state to state. Jenny never got an opportunity to plant herself anywhere and as they moved, she would lose things along the way. After college, she was able to start her own business as a college counselor and plant her roots in Sea Grove, New Jersey.
During that time, though, she began collecting all of the things she had lost throughout her childhood. She had boxes stacked all over her first apartment filled with her past. She wanted to let them out and she was able to do so when the apartment next to her became vacant. Now that she has the room, her collection can grow; her childhood can come back to her. But things did get out of hand very quickly.
Characters in Things:
As the story moves, we are introduced to a couple of characters: Greg, Nick, and Jenny’s mom. The relationship between Jenny and her mom is more like best friends then mother and daughter, which I love. I have the same relationship with my mom. We go shopping together, we go to the movies, we go out eating leaving our husbands at home, and we (almost) share everything with each other. It’s great. But at the same time, I know and understand that she is my mother. She will be there to console me, cheer me on, teach me, but also reprimand me when I’ve done something wrong.
I have to say, though, my favorite part of the story was the relationship that developed between Nick and Jenny. Surprised? Like I stated in my Frostblood review and Godzilla review, I am a sucker for romance. Anyway, it reminded me so much of that fairytale romance you read in stories and see in movies. It also reminded me of my husband and I. He’s always there for me (and I for him). He understands and is okay with my quirks. He is willing – and wanting – to help me in any way he can whether I want it or not. That is Jenny and Nick. That’s also why Nick is my favorite character in the book.
Jenny Gilbert - My Favorite
One of my least favorite characters in the book is actually Jenny. I mean, when I first started reading it, I actually fell in love with her because me and her are one in the same. One of my favorite lines in the book is when Jenny has furniture delivered to her new apartment and she makes sure everything is in its proper spot by measuring it. One of the delivery guys said to her, “You’re a crazy chick,” as he walked out of the apartment. Her response, “They have no idea.”
I loved that response because that’s when I realized me and her are the same person. We’re both OCD, we’re both from Jersey, we both own businesses, and we’re both nuts! The other thing I loved about her is she gave one of her client’s the confidence to stand up to her mom. She had a student, Megan, who knew what she wanted to do after high school, but her mom had different plans for her. Jenny helped her find her voice. Megan, at one point, said to her, “…it’s also about standing up for myself. Making myself heard and earning respect, but doing it in a way that doesn’t stop people from liking me.”
However, as I continued to read the book, my love for Jenny dwindled. You learn that she is a compulsive liar. She constantly lies to Nick, she lies to her mom, and it’s mainly because she doesn’t think people would understand. They won’t understand why she’s had to have her collection and why it had to continue to grow. This is when I realized that I had been sucked into this book. I kept on yelling at Jenny, saying, “Girl, just tell him! Just tell the truth!” I even cried at certain points, both happy and sad tears. I’m not kidding when I say you really dive into this book.
Description Throughout Things:
Ms. Garson also does an amazing job of using description throughout the book. There are times where you can really feel the emotion of a character or envision where a character is. For example, when Jenny talks about Greg (who is an absolute tool bag) meeting her mom, she said, “Oh yes, I can imagine. I can imagine it perfectly. Greg, spotting my pretty and young-looking mother coming out of my apartment, his nosy antenna perking up at the sight of her, then moving in on her like a vulture. My skin prickles at the thought. I shudder.” With this line, you can only imagine what type of character Greg is. You’re able to feel the same uneasiness as Jenny did.
The settings Ms. Garson describes throughout really hits home for me because she is describing my home. Like when she mentions the shore: “The beach vista opens up into a layered trio of colors. The cloudless sky a shade of blue that doesn’t look quite real, the deeper turquoise glint of the ocean, and the golden tan of New Jersey beach sand.” What a beautiful way to describe it.
Or when Nick and Jenny go for a drive: “We drive fifteen minutes west, away from the shore, and the land is different. Homes built on sandy soil decorated with hedges and vegetable gardens give way to leafier landscapes and greener lawns. The air is different too. The salty tang of the ocean breeze is gone, replaced with a fresh cut grass scent sparked with the earthy smell of clean dirt.”
Ms. Garson also uses great analogies in her novel. One of my favorites is when Jenny is talking about her apartments: “I need both of my apartments. Like a pair of mirrors facing each other, they both reflect me. This apartment is the front Jenny, the self I show to the outside world. And next door is the back Jenny, my secret side…” What an amazing and beautiful way to help someone understand why she has these apartments.
Lastly, Ms. Garson mentions Hurricane Sandy, a wound that is still pretty fresh for us Jerseyans. I think it adds a nice twist to the story because we get to see how attached Jenny is to her things. She kept on believing that it wasn’t going to hit her area. Nick tried everything to convince her, but she was in complete denial. She didn’t even believe what the reports on the news were saying. She kept on telling herself, and Nick, that she will be safe, that her things will be safe. God bless Nick because he stayed with her the entire time, trying to persuade her to leave, to pack up her things and stay with him until it was over. Does she finally realize that she needs to let go or do her and Nick stay and wait it out? I guess you’ll have to read and find out!
I definitely recommend this book for anyone who loves a good drama story with other elements mixed in. This book is especially perfect for anyone from New Jersey as you’ll recognize several places while reading like the shore, New Brunswick, Route 18, etc. It was just so refreshing to read a novel where I recognized the setting. However, if you’re not from Jersey, you will still enjoy this book. Like I mentioned earlier, this book is a page turner. Ms. Garson always leaves you in suspense, wanting more; all the way to the end. To learn more about Ms. Garson, her debut novel, Things, and where you can buy it, please check out her website.
Policies & Disclosure
Please remember I am not getting paid to write this review. I am just a fan and fellow author helping out another great author. To learn more, please check out my Policy page. Also, I would love to hear what you think of this review and of the book, if you’ve read it. You can either comment below (please read my “Comments Policy” on the Policy page before doing so) or contact me.
The photos featured in this post are my photos. The first is my copy of Things by Francine Garson. The second is my “signature photo”, me with my copy of this incredible novel.
**This post was originally published on August 31, 2019**