Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes
As a child, I read a lot about trivia and oddities, including weird death. (It was before the internet, so this was from real books.) One of the creepiest was what happened to the Collyer brothers, found dead in 1947. Some of the massive amounts of newspapers and junk they stockpiled had collapsed on one, and the other starved to death. They were the first hoarders to become famous due to their obsessions and how they destroyed them.
As a collector, once the comics started becoming substantial in their presence, that became a fear, of letting the objects get out of control. I’ve been careful to tidy up regularly and prune out, donating or selling books that I no longer want to keep the collection contained.
I couldn’t imagine what it would be like to actually be in a situation where the items had overtaken one’s life. Until I read Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes, a young adult novel about how Annabelle’s mother’s hoarding has warped her life.
She won’t let friends come by. She made her room spotless, and she has her own obsessive routines about keeping it that way. Unfortunately, Annabelle’s younger sister Leslie doesn’t have her coping mechanisms. Their older brother Chad simply leaves home a lot, but Leslie has to live surrounded by piles of junk. Family Game Night and Other Catastrophes explores what they do when it all comes crashing down… literally, as a giant pile of newspapers hits Leslie in the head one morning. That event becomes the breaking point, after which the characters risk losing everything they care about, because something has to change.
First-time author Mary E. Lambert does a great job evoking what living in such an environment might be like and what Annabelle has to face in order to open up. It’s more prettified than it would be in the real world, but it’s also sympathetic to the situation. No matter how messed up a family is, it’s still family, and Annabelle’s voice feels authentic. (The publisher provided a digital review copy.)