Months after he discovered a small stash of rocks that his mother, Yvonne Franco, had taken from historic sites in England, Hornig traveled across the Atlantic to return them. Emotionally detached from her for decades, he hoped the trip would somehow bring him closer to her memory. ""I had no idea what made her tick, what was going on inside her head, or deep in her heart,"" he explains in this genre-crossing memoir. ""I never paid attention, growing up. I never invested in my mother."" Retracing Frankie's footsteps in Somerset, for example, where she had pocketed a stone from Cadbury Castle, Hornig recalls his mother's fondness for Camelot, ""both the Broadway and Kennedy versions,"" and the profound sadness she felt when President Kennedy was assassinated. (Cadbury was presumably the seat of King Arthur's Court.) As he recounts his travels and his often-lonely childhood, Hornig, a Massachusetts-based journalist, takes the audience on a second journey as well-through the minds of fanatic collectors. He quotes, for example, psychoanalyst Werner Muensterberger's assertion that people accumulate objects in order to ""control anxiety and uncertainty,"" and investigates the relationship between Frankie's compulsion and her own difficult childhood. By considering such larger questions, Hornig successfully broadens the scope of his memoir, turning it into a lyrical account of the many ways people cope with loss.