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Objects of Our Affection: Uncovering My Family's Past, One Chair, Pistol, and Pickle Fork at a Time
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Objects of Our Affection: Uncovering My Family's Past, One Chair, Pistol, and Pickle Fork at a Time

3.20  ·  Rating Details  ·  81 Ratings  ·  23 Reviews
After their mother’s death, Lisa Tracy and her sister, Jeanne, are left to contend with several households’ worth of furniture and memorabilia, much of it accumulated during their family’s many decades of military service in far-flung outposts from the American frontier to the World War Two–era Pacific. In this engaging and deeply moving book, Tracy chronicles the wondrous ...more
ebook, 250 pages
Published March 23rd 2010 by Bantam (first published 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 180)
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Aug 28, 2010 Jennifer rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
I have mixed feelings about this book. I liked the overall idea - following a family's history through their possessions. Though I felt at times the author strayed to far off course into the events and time in which her family members lived rather than staying focused to their personal stories and who they were. Many times the author described the strong emotional pull of fond memories, guilt and loss these objects evoked, while being faced with needing to put closure on the past, let go of thin ...more
Feb 26, 2011 Myrt rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I think I liked the idea of this book more than the book itself. It was just too easy to put down for something else.
Kokolani Missett
I thought this book was repeating itself over and over again. It seemed like it didn't say anything.
Jul 13, 2010 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
REALLY enjoyed this book. Excellent writing. I'm not usually one for nonfiction but this was engaging and interesting and really made me think about my own life. It's worth reading it if you care about family, history, American history, life, death, grieving. If you ever ask yourself: WHY DO I HAVE ALL THIS STUFF? Again, the book for you. I recommend. Mucho.
Bill Glose
Aug 14, 2013 Bill Glose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When her mother died in 1993, Lisa Tracy found it hard to let go of the possessions her mother had left behind. After allowing them to sit in storage bins for ten years, she finally worked up the courage to sort through them, deciding what to keep, what to give away and what to sell at auction. A journalist for 25 years with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Tracy used her skills to investigate the provenance of each piece, which of her ancestors had acquired it, and under what circumstances. Like a sl ...more
Apr 04, 2012 Melody rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
This was a strange and disconcerting book. Tracy comes from an old American military family, and she and her sister find themselves the recipients of many lifetimes' worth of furniture after their mother dies. This book is the story of what they do with the furniture, who they are in the context of their family, and how they cope with who they are. The family, despite the author's insistence to the contrary, is solidly upper class. The Chippendale, the Hepplewhite, the Meissen seem somehow to be ...more
Aug 13, 2010 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this trip through the authors family. After her mother is moved to a nursing home, it falls to Lisa and her sister to store her mothers furniture and belongings, many of them with a long family history. After years in storage, the sisters decide that many of the items should be sold, but it is hard to depart with the things that hold so many memories and much regret sets in.

In my own family, after my mum died, dads moved to a new home, taking with him most of the things from the family
Elizabeth Kennedy
Emotional journey of a woman as she learns more of her family's history through the object left to her from an older generation.There were parts that didn't hold my interest as much as others, but I recognized the regret with which she was tormented after selling her grandmother's needlepoint and when the cleaning women washed the last of her mother's salt down the drain. Poignent, but triumphant.
This was interesting. Her family history was almost blank to her, until she went through things. And although no one ever talked about "things," and the author kind of ignores the obvious pain, she admits to being in denial most of the time.

This had a real impact on me - made me sad for my family's greed. My grandmother's half-brother took most of the family things while his four sisters were attending the funeral, and gave the family belongings away.

This was repeated by my step-father, after m
Sandy D.
This was an interesting combination of memoir, family history, and American history, though at times it got a little dry. If you're dealing with the death of a parent, cleaning out a house or moving and trying to decide what to keep and what to sell or give away (and you don't mind some excursions into the Gilded Age, Philippine colonialism, and military families), then you will probably enjoy this.

Reading this after Randy Frost and Gail Steekete's Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of T
Dec 29, 2010 Marie rated it liked it
Shelves: history-books
I'm using this for my 200 level history class on the American family. Although the writing is uneven, I found the tale engaging, if somewhat annoying. (Getting upset because someone threw out salt that your mother may or may not have used, ten years after she died, is going a little overboard.) From reading this, I'm hoping that my students gain an appreciation for how material objects reflect their family's past. The author uses material objects to better understand her ancestors, especially th ...more
Sep 14, 2010 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps Tracy's book resonated with me due to our recent move - and disposal of nearly all our furniture and household goods- but Objects of OUr Affection succeeds quite well in its conceit of telling a family's stories through it's heirlooms, furniture, and goods. Tracy examines her family's ancestry through the stories attached to the objects as she attempts to trace each item's provenance for an impending estate auction.

Fans of the hipper and fictional Important Artifacts... by Leanne Shapton
Brenda Opperman
I have always been close to my family and enjoyed family stories. As I get older, I can relate to the process the author goes through as she seeks to know more details about her relatives. It reminds me of the importance of asking questions of those older members of the family while there is still time. Certain pieces of our history have significance to who we are and our collective story. This book is a gentle reminder not to wait until it is too late.
Margaret Sankey
Memoir of a 19th-20th century military family, framed by the last generation's attempt to sort through the accumulated stuff for auction--sort of multi-generational history as played out on Antiques Roadshow. Two lessons: by the time the grand kids are interested in provenance, the people who knew it are dead and whatever the story was, not only is it probably not true, it adds no value to the ugly coffee table.
Diane C.
Lisa Tracy's story of discovering her east coast, military family's past and sorting through a warehouse full of the remnants of it was more pedantic than I expected.

It was still worth the journey, but not as engrossing as one would hope, despite their links to many momentous events and people in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
A very interesting way to research a family history (via the inherited furniture, dishes, papers, etc.). I found her initial lack of interest in her family's things frustrating--although she ended up realizing the same thing in the end. The story meanders around a bit, but is still an interesting snapshot of a family.
Mar 28, 2013 Linda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Good concept but not delivered in a satisfactory manner. Too much of the author's family was not representative of an average family, so I did not really care. Too many generals, upper class folks, and too much repetition. If the sandai chest was mentioned one more time I would have screamed.
Lisa Michele
Great idea for a book, could have been executed better. She is going through her mother's belongings after she dies and musing about the importance of things and the stories they contain. However, instead of treasuring them she is auctioning them off - therein lies the rub.
Jun 25, 2012 Anne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well-written and interesting, especially since I have been going through much the same experience for the past 5 years since my mother died.
Genesie Hauglie
This story got a bit heavy with details of history and furniture, but it was alright for a spur of the moment grab off the "new" shelf.
May 08, 2013 Denise rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Had a really hard time getting into this. Some parts were very descriptive and well-written, just couldn't capture my interest.
A family's possessions yields history of this military family
Debra Hale-Shelton
Dec 06, 2010 Debra Hale-Shelton rated it it was ok
See my review at
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“It's hard to let go of objects because they are full of stories...They speak to us of the life we had, and the lives we never knew...We can, in fact, never be free of our stuff until we have dealt with the stories it carries. In the end, it does indeed tell us something about who we are.” 8 likes
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