Dirty Secret – Jessie Sholl
Jessie Sholl’s Dirty Secret is a roller coaster tale of an adult daughter who must find a way to help her hoarding mother while keeping together the life she has built for herself. It is an honest portrayal of Jessie’s journey that began with a secret and ended with a certain sense of freedom and reconciliation. Throughout the memoir Jessie gives the reader a glimpse into the reality of growing up in a hoarded home, sparing no detail be it of physical or emotional clutter. She takes us all the way from her childhood through her adult years, bravely letting us watch her struggle to come to terms with the fact that her mother is sick and that her illness affects both women deeply. It is at times difficult to read and difficult to believe, but finds a way to capture both women for who they are as imperfect human beings with complex emotions and relationships.
Dirty Secret sparked a lively discussion among the Maniacs. Some of us were angry with Jessie for not having more compassion towards her mother’s mental illness, while others prioritized their sympathy for Jessie who never knew what it was to feel truly and completely loved by a mother. While we all took different things from this memoir, it was clear that it had done its job to highlight the intricacies and unique dynamics of a family dealing with hoarding. There are no true villains, no heroes. Only people who hurt and love each other in equal measure.