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Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes: 09/10/18

Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes

Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes by Mary E. Lambert opens with a pile of newspapers falling on Annabelle's sister's head. Their mother has a hoarding problem. It's tied up with her depression and anxiety and it only seems to be getting worse. The incident sparks a fight between parents that might lead to a divorce.

It also leads to an intervention by Grandma Nora. She reminded me a lot of the no-nonsense grandma from The Someday Birds except here, her goal is to help Annabelle's mother clean up the house so that the family can start acting like a normal family.

I happened to read this book coming off the most unpredictable year in my life since my husband and I decided over Memorial Day weekend, 1999, to move from one end of California to the other. Until last June we had spent thirteen and a half years as a family of four (and two cats) living in a two bedroom condo really designed for one person (if one room was set up as a home office). I calculated that each human had about 100 square feet of personal space. Suffice it say, it was crowded and cluttered and sometimes felt like it was on the edge of becoming a hoarding situation.

And then circumstances changed and we had an opportunity to move into a house — an actual proper house with a yard, and a garage, and a bedroom for each child. We just had to put ninety percent of our stuff in storage and put our most important, day to day stuff, into as few boxes as we could manage so that we could sojourn in a local apartment that was even smaller than our condo.

But all that madness was over by the time I sat down to read about Annabelle and Grandma Nora did their best to bring some normalcy back to the family. I was reading about their oh too familiar story (I had a roommate in college who hoarded newspapers until the super forced her to recycle them all) while I was sitting in a near empty house on a recently purchased couch.

Now five months later, more furniture has arrived. We're starting to bring our stuff in, but in an orderly fashion and we've agreed to keep the less important stuff in storage, and get rid of things we don't need or want. Although, in truth, we got rid of so much in the move from condo to apartment.

The last lingering memory of Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes is the "forbidden room." In Anabelle's family, it is the dining room. It has remained locked as the rest of the house has filled up. This detail reminded me so much of my grandmother who had a compulsion to collect things, a habit she picked up from her mother. Except, in both their cases, instead of the majority of their homes taking on collections, they kept their treasures behind locked doors. For my great-grandmother it was the bedrooms or her long since grown up children that were overflowing with a century's worth of ephemera, and a disused garage filled with I'm not even sure. My grandmother, meanwhile, had a third bedroom, a bedroom that could have been for a second child if she'd had one. Instead it held whatever she couldn't integrate into the rest of the house or give to someone. It was a weird jumble of stuff.

Anyway, the book hits home for anyone who has lived in a cluttered or hoarding situation or knows someone who does.

Three stars

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