When her mother was diagnosed with colon cancer, Sholl was faced with a dread worse than the disease, that of taking on responsibility for her mother’s house, filthy and chaotic from years of hoarding. Sholl had grown up in the house in Minneapolis until her parents’ divorce, when she eventually went to live with her father and stepmother not far from the house that so shamed her. She’d spent her adolescence embarrassed by her mother’s mental illness: the hoarding, compulsive shopping, indecisiveness, and occasional cruelty and abuse. Now married and living in New York, she could not rid herself of the obligation and shame or the alternating emotions of fury and protectiveness. Forced to deal with her mother, Sholl waded through garbage (unopened mail, broken appliances, moldy food, and scores of identical items bought on shopping sprees), memories, and research to find a deeper understanding of her mother’s mental disorder. She offers a compelling and compassionate perspective on an illness suffered by an estimated six million Americans that has only recently been explored through reality television programs. --Vanessa Bush
"Sholl explores the psychological reasons why being merely a pack rat can erupt into full-blown hoarding. By the end you're sympathetic to both mother and daughter and understand how a parent's obsession can become a child's."
magazine, 3.5 stars (out of 4)
"With her bold prose and ceaseless courage, Jessie Sholl tells a mother-daughter story like no other. Get ready for a visceral read: just a few pages in to DIRTY SECRET, you'll be scratching your ankles, dabbling your eyes, and -- when you're finished -- frantically cleaning your house."
- Stephanie Elizondo Griest, author of "Around the Bloc" and "Mexican Enough"
"Mining a story of damage inflicted and damage sustained, Jessie Sholl conjures a narrative of surprising interconnectedness, even uplift. Wry and illuminating, Dirty Secret
is an empathic and insightful memoir."
--Dave King, author of THE HA-HA
"When a grown child tells the story of a troubled parent, three things are needed: exacting detail, unflinching honesty, and - most of all - unconditional love. Jessie Sholl's "Dirty Secret" beautifully contains them all."
- Dan Koeppel, author of "To See Every Bird on Earth: A Father, A Son, and A Lifelong Obsession"
"Suspenseful and novel-like, Dirty Secret
is a wonderful, respectful introduction to the world of a hoarder and the tribulations suffered by both the individual who hoards and their family members."
-- Fugen Neziroglu, Ph.D. author of Overcoming Compulsive Hoarding: Why You Save and How You Can Stop
"From a literal mess of a childhood, Sholl has emerged to tell a compelling and sparkling-clean story that will captivate anyone who has ever tried to let go of the past."
-Elisabeth Eaves, author of "Bare" and Wanderlust"
"Sholl coaxes tragicomic elements from the depressing proceedings—as when everyone contracted a seemingly incurable case of scabies, courtesy of her mother’s hellhole, or the time she discovered the cremated remains of her mother’s longtime boyfriend buried under a pile of yarn, two lava lamps and a stack of old newspapers. Most poignant, though, is the secret shame and embarrassment of her mother’s strangeness that Sholl lugged around for so many years. Eventually, she found sympathy and understanding... Affecting and illuminating."
- Kirkus Reviews
"[Sholl] offers a compelling and compassionate perspective on an illness suffered by an estimated six million Americans that has only recently been explored through reality television programs."