I will tell you right off the bat that I could not wait to get my hands on this book. And it did not disappoint. The story is fascinating subject to me, and the way the story is told is wonderful ‘what-if’ of how the these two men came to be the most famous hoarders in history. That’s right, hoarders. Personally, this subject enthralls me. Not because I’m a hoarder, in fact, I’m just the opposite. I love to throw stuff away, it’s cathartic to me. When my stuff is lost, I don’t look for it very hard, figuring it will turn when it needs to. So when I hear or see people who hoard, it’s like a horrible accident- I can’t look away. However, this review isn’t about me; it’s about Homer & Langley.
Who were Homer and Langley Collyer? Here is quote from a New York Times piece about the book:
“Homer and Langley Collyer were the sons of a wealthy doctor, who lived in the early 20th century in a grand mansion in Harlem. After their parents died, the brothers gradually retreated from the world and began hoarding junk. They had amassed 180 tons of it by the time the authorities discovered their bodies in 1947. Langley had died in a junk avalanche, leaving Homer, who was blind and dependent on his brother, to starve. Sanitation crews worked in shifts to cart things out: towering stacks of decades-old newspapers, dressmaker dummies, a dozen gas chandeliers, a Model T Ford.”
A Model T Ford?! The first question is Why? followed closely by How? Questions like that were why I wanted to read this book.
This is not a factual telling of the story. Many things are not known about these men or how they ended up in the predicament they did, so the author weaves this wonderfully rich story of these men’s lives, their friends, their times, and, ultimately, the mental illness that lead to such extreme hoarding. Even the known facts are sometimes discarded by the author (like the birth order of the two men). As the reader, I graciously allowed all of this, just to glimpse into the lives of these men. To watch them come of age in the waning days of the Victorian era, survive war, but, eventually, fall victim to their own isolation. The book demands that we see them more than the famous hoarders but as talented, highly educated souls who somehow lost their way in the changing times.
Sadly this book doesn’t include any of the pictures from when the police finally raided the home in 1947, but a quick Google search will give you some images for a frame of reference.
And now to my rating system:
Buy it NOW!- this is reserved for the best books
Paperback on an Airplane– It’s a good read, but if you leave it in the seat, you won’t be crushed.
Borrow it– From the library or from a friend, that way if you don’t like it or don’t find it especially moving, as I suspect you might, you won’t have spent your hard earned money on it.
Wait for the movie-The book is awful, but it might make a great film.
Skip it altogether– I hated it, I think you will too.
For Homer and Langley I am going with Buy it Now! This book didn’t get as much praise as it should have, it really is a wonderfully rich tale of two men’s lives. Men whose fate still manages to pique our curiosity.
For Kindle owners- Download
You can buy the book here.
I am currently reading: The Lost Symbol (but don’t necessarily wait for a review, it is quickly approaching “throw it against a wall” status. But don’t worry, the next book to be read after that is “The Disappearing Spoon.”)