I just finished “Dirty Secret: A Daughter Comes Clean About Her Mother’s Compulsive Hoarding” by Jessie Sholl.
It seems like it would be a book about hoarding, right? Wrong. While the overall storyline promised to be about hoarding, it seemed instead to be a minor detail, something that the author put in to get her book published.
Or perhaps that is too harsh. Maybe Sholl did indeed go in planning to write about hoarding and all it entails. And maybe she’s just too much of a self-centered person to do so. In one of the reviews that I read, a person mentioned that Sholl seemed to be yet another fully grown woman who was still blaming her mother for all her issues, and I’ve got to say, I completely agree.
Sholl mentions her mild childhood abuse, which included hair-pulling and walks around the block “no matter the time of day or the weather” when she and her brother got into fights. And while she wallows in the sadness of her abuse, she merely glosses over her mother’s own horrible child abuse, where her mom would take beatings by her father in order to stop him from beating her mother. And then Sholl’s mother would look to her own mother for comfort, and the woman would walk out of the room, without any acknowledgement of what just transpired. I recognize that what Sholl’s mother did is not good parenting. But she wasn’t beat, she wasn’t emotionally abused day in and day out. I’m making that assumption because, while Sholl neglected to fulfill the promise that the description of the book makes, she does go into detail about nearly every other topic from her life that she possibly could.
She talks about her husband, she talks about her parents’ relationship. She goes on and on about an infection that she and the rest of her family caught while trying to clean her mother’s house. And through it all, she whines. While bashing her mom and expressing her feelings about the fact that her mom has very little in savings, she mentions that (while she didn’t keep the receipts) her mom paid about $15,000 over the years towards Sholl’s own college payments. And while Sholl whines that in retrospect, she shouldn’t have taken the money, it doesn’t even seem to cross her mind to pay some of that back. Meanwhile, her mom goes on to give her presents that Shool takes, without telling her that she’ll never use them, with the intention of donating them the second she gets home.
And the way that she talks to her mom… There seems to be so much anger and resentment there, for Sholl just lashes out at every opportunity. She’s mean and slightly rude to her mother, all while still blaming her for all her troubles. I had to ask myself, if Sholl can’t stand her mother, why does she continue the relationship? So that she can still belittle her at every turn? I actually physically winced at some of the statements that Sholl makes to her mom when her mom seems to be trying to be nice.
In the end, I regret wasting my time on this book. Luckily, I only spent a couple days reading it, or I likely would have put it down. I didn’t want to read another whiny, self-indulgent memoir, I wanted to read a book about a hoarder and her daughter, and the relationship that they had. I feel like I was tricked into reading a memoir about someone who wasn’t even on my radar screen prior to the start of this book. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone. There has got to be something better out there. And even if not, this book just simply isn’t worth the waste of time. Unless, that is, you want to read another whiny memoir akin to the whininess of Julie and Julia. Then, by all means, have at it!