Every thing we keep by Di Walker
Agatha is 13 and very independent. She’s had to be, given both her parents, floundering in their grief for a sibling, have neglected her physically and emotionally for years. She has spent time in an array of temporary foster homes but the system has let her down in regularly returning her to her parents who have no ability to care for her. Nell, the social worker, is powerless to allow her to stay with Katherine (whose husband works away) but when Agatha’s home inevitably reverts to chaos, Katherine cared enough to teach her how to find her way back.
Staying with Katherine permanently entails going back to school, including the inevitable bullying she has experienced in her home community. Agatha takes a risk because the adults convince her that it will be a fresh start in a supportive school, but moreso because of a chance meeting with her soon-to-be best friend, Tully.
In Tully we see a confident and compassionate teenager, as mature and tolerant as Nell, Katherine, Lawson (her husband) and Rita - the neighbourhood grandmother figure. A number of novels have been written about the kinds of problems that lead to child care authorities placing children in foster homes. Agatha’s situation is not unique but now, thanks to Di Walker, lesser known circumstances of neglect will be better understood. Moreso, Agatha’s story will resonate with children who have mentally ill parents.
Together, her growing support network must convince Agatha that in order to ultimately help her parents, she needs self-care and a regular lifestyle – one in which there are people who will never let her down. We keep turning pages because this tough cookie takes a lot of convincing – don’t worry, she’s worth it.
Themes Family, School, Hoarding.