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Dirty Secret

A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


A fascinating look at compulsive hoarding by a woman whose mother suffers from the disease.

To be the child of a compulsive hoarder is to live in a permanent state of unease. Because if my mother is one of those crazy junk-house people, then what does that make me?

When her divorced mother was diagnosed with cancer, New York City writer Jessie Sholl returned to her hometown of Minneapolis to help her prepare for her upcoming surgery and get her affairs in order. While a daunting task for any adult dealing with an aging parent, it’s compounded for Sholl by one lifelong, complex, and confounding truth: her mother is a compulsive hoarder. Dirty Secret is a daughter’s powerful memoir of confronting her mother’s disorder, of searching for the normalcy that was never hers as a child, and, finally, cleaning out the clutter of her mother’s home in the hopes of salvaging the true heart of their relationship—before it’s too late.

Growing up, young Jessie knew her mother wasn’t like other mothers: chronically disorganized, she might forgo picking Jessie up from kindergarten to spend the afternoon thrift store shopping. Now, tracing the downward spiral in her mother’s hoarding behavior to the death of a long-time boyfriend, she bravely wades into a pathological sea of stuff: broken appliances, moldy cowboy boots, twenty identical pairs of graying bargain-bin sneakers, abandoned arts and crafts, newspapers, magazines, a dresser drawer crammed with discarded eyeglasses, shovelfuls of junk mail . . . the things that become a hoarder’s “treasures.” With candor, wit, and not a drop of sentimentality, Jessie Sholl explores the many personal and psychological ramifications of hoarding while telling an unforgettable mother-daughter tale.

From Publishers Weekly

29 November 2010 – In this peculiar exercise of catharsis, Sholl, a journalist in New York, reflects on her frequently mortifying experience growing up with a pathological hoarder. When her 63-year-old mother informed the author that she had to undergo surgery for colon cancer, Sholl was compelled to return to her hometown of Minneapolis and sign papers assuming ownership of her mother's house a problematic place, which was already an alarming repository of junk in her grade-school years when her parents divorced and Sholl decided to live with her "normal" father and stepmother instead. Fired for being too slow at her job at a nursing home, Sholl's mother, Helen, is a troubled character with abandonment issues from her own parents, suffering from extreme indecisiveness and probable depression. Over the week-long visit, Sholl attempts to clean the house and contracts scabies, which subsequently spreads to her father and husband. Sholl's portrait of her mother is one of the most unflattering of recent memorable accounts; it's unflinching in its determination to reveal her shameful secret for the emotional liberation, one hopes, of both mother and daughter.
Dirty Secret
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  • USD 11.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Family & Relationships
  • Published: 28 December 2010
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Print Length: 336 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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