Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller
I am actually in the middle of two other books, both of which would have been a fine way to reach the milestone of my third cannonball read. But I picked this up at the library before a camping trip this weekend and didn’t want to put it down. So it seems to be a fitting choice for review #52.
Author Kimberly Rae Miller was raised by two loving parents, one of whom is a hoarder, and the other who has, at times, been a compulsive shopper. This memoir tells Ms. Miller’s story through vivid anecdotes that really bring the reader as much into her world as possible, without dwelling so much on the details that shows like ‘Hoarders’ love to emphasize (cat carcasses, anyone?). Yes, she is clear on what she means by hoarding, and yes, sometimes the descriptions are enough to make one maybe not want to eat during those paragraphs, but in reality Ms. Miller is telling a very thoughtful story about the complicated but devoted relationship she maintains with her parents.
Ms. Miller was a shy child who tried to keep the reality of her father’s hoarding from the rest of the world. She began acting as a way to take on another personality in the hopes of figuring out how she could navigate the world. She shares stories of the time child protective services came, not because of the hoarding, but because of a lie she told, and the terror her parents felt because they knew she’d be taken away if CPS saw their home. She talks about the multiple surgeries her mother had, and how after each one the family faced more challenges. She talks about her nightmares and her need for her own place that is clean and under her control.
I really enjoyed this book. I think Ms. Miller’s writing style was vivid enough to create a mental picture in the reader’s mind without resorting to the type of sensationalism that a lesser editor might demand. She was allowed to tell her story, which is largely shaped by her experience with her parents and the hoarding, yes, but that isn’t everything about her. Ultimately I found this book to be about family, and how people do the best they can with what they have. After reading this book I find myself feeling affection towards Ms. Miller’s parents, and admiration for Ms. Miller’s ability to share her story in such a gracious way.