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Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding Paperback – December 28, 2010
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-- People 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."
Top Customer Reviews
Jessie Sholl bravely throws herself (and her family) into her haunting and amusing memoir. The best thing about this book is that it's 100% readable, a page-turner really, and it's also extremely informative about hoarding and having someone with a mental disorder entwined in your life. Sholl combines her own stories with researched facts about hoarders that fit snugly in the story. She delves into the complex cycle of hope, frustration and defeat intermixed with humor and honesty will ring true to anyone who has loved a person with a mental illness. If you've dealt (or are dealing) with mental illness/hoarding you'll read this book and think, 'I'm not alone, this is my story too.' If you haven't had a personal experience with a hoarder this will give you insight into the behavior and open your eyes to a new world.
There are many facets of the book beyond the hoarding - daughter-as-mother relationship, parents growing older, etc. Sholl explores these areas in a subtle, genuine way. Bravo!
The author points out that not all hoarders are alike: e.g., her mother was a compulsive spender, while mine was a compulsive saver. But, while severe hoarding is often triggered by a trauma, the behavior can be remarkably similar despite different circumstances: my mother was a child of the Depression, while the author's mother grew up in the sixties, but they still had kitchens full of out-of-date products they couldn't bear to throw away. Other authors have described the syndrome in more clinical terms, but this book gives the sense of what it's like to LIVE with a hoarding parent.
What I found most compelling about the book, however, is how well the author described the children-of-hoarders mind-set: She felt responsible for taking care of her mother, and obligated to keep trying to put her mother's house and finances in order, even when it was clear to everyone around her that her efforts were futile. It's almost impossible to convey how life-consuming this sense of responsibility for one's parent can be; but, based on my own experience, I feel that the author totally nailed it.Read more ›
"Dirty Secret" is as much the story of how Jessie, as a young adult, was able to let the "dirty secret" of her mother's behavior be known, as much as it was revealing the "dirty secret" of her mother's home in Minneapolis. We all have "secrets" we feel we must conceal from others. The problems we try to hide from others are often heavier than they should be and when we acknowledge/talk about/reveal them, the result is most often a feeling of complete liberation.
Jessie Sholl is a good writer and her story is replete with those curious "details" about others' lives that are most interesting. She waited to write her memoir until she seemed fairly comfortable with the facts of her mother's illness and the effect on the lives of those around her.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I enjoyed this. Wasn't the best "hoarding" story I've ever read, but worth reading.Published 5 months ago by James M. Robinette
This is a wonderfully written, warm, honest story that tells not just about the dirty secret of the mental illness of Hoarding, but about the importance of family and love, and the... Read morePublished 6 months ago by WriterToo
A touching and personal account of this condition. I used it as part of my research for The Hoarder's Widow. Thank you.Published 6 months ago by Allie
Good read for anyone who has concerns about hoarding.
Explains patterns and mental thinking of hoarding behaviors and fits it into a real situation.
I so wish it were possible to thank this author in person. There is so much heartache in this book , but the author emerges with coping tools that are truly life altering for us... Read morePublished 13 months ago by T. Gibson
Jessie Sholl has written an insightful and compassionate memoir about her mother, who exhibits mental illness through obsessive spending and hoarding. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Doug Erlandson
This book took my breath away at the times, as I felt the author's emotions. I recommend this read for anyone who loves a hoarder.Published 16 months ago by Rosella