"Sholl explores the psychological reasons why being merely a pack rat can erupt into full-blown hoarding. By the end you're sympathetic to both mother and daughter and understand how a parent's obsession can become a child's."
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."
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.
When the author received a phone call from her mother, Helen, who told her she had been diagnosed with cancer and wanted to sign her house over to Sholl due to rising medical expenses, she was saddened by the news but also appalled at the idea of owning the house, which was filthy, grease-caked and dust-choked, clogged to the eaves with "just so much junk, so much worthless, heartbreaking junk." But Sholl, her mother's keeper since childhood, dutifully went to care for her and clean up her mess. While there, the author took a long look at her mother's unsteady mental state, reliving episodes of outlandish behavior that now found expression in hoarding, a lack of self-awareness, immunity to criticism, disorganization and neglectfulness. And there was more in her Helen's past, deeper, darker stuff like abandonment and physical abuse that spilled over into Sholl's life. Meanwhile, the author was looking for a reliable, nurturing mother under the moth-eaten, knee-length sweaters, of which there were 130 more at home. In a pleasant surprise, 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. "The more I talked about my mother's compulsive hoarding," she writes, "the weaker my secret became. Until it was gone."
Affecting and illuminating.