Denny Roman at 12: a Midwestern girl with a clueless family, a bit part in the school play, a crush on the drama teacher, and concerns about frontal development. Her mother and father, divorced neuroscientists, are raising her with benign neglect. The family is virtually run by an agoraphobe named Maureen, who has a taxi fleet and a superorganized and compassionate method of managing other people's lives, especially Denny's.
Denny Roman at 26: jets home from Hollywood for the weekend and lands in the marital minefield of her mother and stepfather's imminent relocation to New York. She has to pack up her childhood possessions in 48 hours before returning to L.A. for a big audition with Robert Altman. She's supposed to be deciding what to keep, but she's worried about what to wear. In a deranged moment, she kisses her stepfather. On the lips.
Denny Roman at 36: A playwrite on the eve of her first Off-Broadway production and once again living within sparring distance of her mother, she comes home from rehearsal one afternoon and finds a 13-year-old boy on her doorstep: Luke, the son of Maureen and a Mauritanian refugee cabdriver. Bewildered by his mother's recent death, Luke is looking for a place where he might fit. Will Denny keep him in New York? Will she get any help from Sean - an actor whose good looks may be all there is to him? Will she be reconciled with her mother at long last?
What to Keep looks into the lives of Denny Roman, her mother, her father, her stepfather, and her surrogate mother - all practicing variations on the theme "parent" but none of them quite done being children themselves. Bubbling with sly humor and psychological insight, their story holds out a refreshingly flexible and realistic model of what a good family - whether created by nature or chance or both - can consist of.