“Books want to be read. They’re pretty pointless, otherwise.” – Josephine Myles
There is not a single one among us avid readers who won’t relate in even the tiniest way to Jasper Richardson. At least I hope it’s in the tiniest way; otherwise, you might have a problem. What we would call an addiction to fiction or a healthy obsession, Lewis and Carroll Miller would call a psychological affliction in Jasper, and it’s his affliction that’s at the crux of “Junk”.
Jasper’s a hoarder, you see, but he’s not just any old hoarder. No, Jasper hoards the written word: books, magazines, newspapers. You name it and Jasper has got it in piles from floor to ceiling throughout nearly his entire house. And as a university librarian, he’s got plenty of access to discarded items that he’s more than willing to give a good home, which he feels compelled to do because he can’t bear the thought of them falling into the wrong hands at best or be relegated to a recycling facility at worst. But that’s a mask, a result of something far more painful from Jasper’s past that’s manifesting itself through his hoarding.
Lewis and Carroll are the brother and sister team that Jasper contacts once his despair over the condition of his life hits critical mass, from the depression of living in a home with rooms he can no longer use because the doors are blocked closed by toppled piles of books, to the depression of having a home but no one there to share it with, which throws the emptiness of his life into sharp contrast with the fullness of the walls he lives behind. It took a lot of nerve for Jasper to finally make that first phone call. It took an act of incredible courage to agree to the therapy he’ll need to get to the heart of his hoarding addiction and to confess what lies behind it.
Admitting he has a problem is the first step, and that turns out to be the easiest step in the process of recovery for Jasper, especially when his feelings for Lewis become less than platonic and cause Lewis to pull away in the interest of his professional integrity. But it’s exactly those feelings for Lewis that become Jasper’s compulsion to change, to get his life in order so he can prove his feelings have nothing to do with his recovery and everything to do with the fact he’s fallen in love with a man whose kindness can fill his life better than any book ever could.
Who’d have ever thought that a book about a man who lives in a house with mildewed walls and windows, and stacks of outdated newspapers and magazines and books he’ll never, ever read could turn out to be a story that would totally win my heart? Josephine Myles made it happen almost instantly, in my affection for Jasper and my empathy for the love of his paper and ink stash. Were it not for e-readers, I imagine there are many of us whose homes would be overrun with the books we devour. It’s an obsession we all understand, and it made Jasper so relatable.
Though it wasn’t easy, Lewis helps Jasper recover control of his life, but Jasper also helps Lewis find a happiness that has always eluded him. These two men were made for each other, like a closed book just waiting for the right someone to come along and open it up to see and love all the secrets it holds inside.
This is another Josephine Myles novel I wouldn’t hesitate for a second to recommend. This new cast of characters is just that, complete characters whose quirks and idiosyncrasies made this book both fun and heartwarming to read. Plus, there are a couple of characters who show up that you may just recognize from the short story “When In Amsterdam…” from the anthology Winter Warmers. I loved that crossover a lot.
Reviewed by: Lisa