Dirty Secret by Jessie Sholl
A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother's Compulsive Hoarding

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Synopsis

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.
 

About Jessie Sholl

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Jessie Sholl's essays and stories have appeared in national newspapers and journals. She is coeditor of the nonfiction anthology Travelers’ Tales Prague and the Czech Republic and a contributor to EverydayHealth.com. She holds an MFA from The New School University, where she currently teaches creative writing.
 
Published December 28, 2010 by Gallery Books. 339 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Health, Fitness & Dieting, Parenting & Relationships. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Dirty Secret

Kirkus Reviews

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Freelance writer Sholl (Creative Writing/New School Univ.; co-editor: Travelers' Tales Prague and the Czech Republic, 2006) humanizes her mother's disorder of hoarding.

Dec 14 2010 | Read Full Review of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Come...

Kirkus Reviews

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It’s so hard to explain because she’ll have moments of clarity where she’ll say, “Wow, I really see how I affected you, and I’m really sorry,” but then the next minute it’s, “Well, my childhood was so much worse.” What is life like now that the secret of your mother’s hoarding is out?

Dec 29 2010 | Read Full Review of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Come...

Macleans

Sholl tells readers, repeatedly, that hoarding is a mental illness and provides arresting statistics: six million Americans are hoarders;

Feb 03 2011 | Read Full Review of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Come...

Portland Book Review

Sholl is a brilliant writer and uses her talents to not only entertain, but to educate her readers on this reprehensible life millions deal with but don’t often share because of the shame they feel, the shame this illness forces on people.

Jul 27 2011 | Read Full Review of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Come...

Bookmarks Magazine

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.<...

Jan 31 2011 | Read Full Review of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Come...

Shelf Awareness

"I had to confess that I do think about an audience, and I don't think that's so bad.

| Read Full Review of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Come...

Marie Claire

A&E's hit show Hoarders has brought to light a fascinating — and simultaneously terrifying — disorder, compulsive hoarding.

Dec 22 2010 | Read Full Review of Dirty Secret: A Daughter Come...

Reader Rating for Dirty Secret
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