Thursday, June 5, 2014

Book Review: Coming Clean

By Amy Bromberg

Whenever Jennifer Weiner recommends a book I definitely have to check it out. When I saw her tweet about Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller back when it came out in hardcover last year, I read the synopsis and thought I would enjoy it. Every so often I discover a memoir that I think I would like, and I can definitely say this one is now on that list.

Kim Miller is an immaculately put-together woman with a great career, a loving boyfriend, and a tidy apartment on Manhattan's Upper West Side. You would never guess that Kim grew up behind the closed doors of her family's idyllic Long Island house, navigating between teetering stacks of aging newspapers, broken computers, and boxes upon boxes of unused junk festering in every room--the product of her father's painful and unending struggle with hoarding.

In this moving coming-of-age story, Kim brings to life her rat-infested home, her childhood consumed by concealing her father's shameful secret from friends, and the emotional burden that ultimately led to an attempt to take her own life. And in beautiful prose, Miller sheds light on her complicated yet loving relationship with her parents that has thrived in spite of the odds. Coming Clean is a story about recognizing where we come from and the relationships that define us--and about finding peace in the homes we make for ourselves. (Synopsis courtesy of Amazon.)

While I didn't grow up with a hoarder, my mom's sister is definitely one. In her small one bedroom apartment in New York City are piles and piles of newspapers and magazines from way back when, VCR tapes starting with the first one she ever recorded, things she got from her mom when she died that she never put away, piles and piles of unopened mail and the list goes on and on. Just like in Kimberly's homes you can barely walk anywhere. Ever since my aunt lived in the city she's had a dog. Just like it was for Kimberly's dogs, this is dangerous for them and they have no where to run and play.

I admire Kimberly's bravery for writing her life story. This must have been a very difficult experience for her because she had to go down memory lane and experience her childhood all over again. I felt this way after reading I Never Promised You a Goodie Bag by Jennifer Gilbert, another amazing memoir.

What stood out most for me from Kimberly’s story is her loyalty to her parents, but then on the flip side how much she loves them. Even after her father continuously didn't keep his word to “clean up,” leading up to the day where she tried to kill herself, she still loves her parents and doesn’t hold a grudge. I don’t think I’d be able to feel this way if I was in her shoes and had to live in my parents’ constant filth. Her father must have known deep down that this isn’t good for his daughter (his wife and dogs too) but he just couldn’t get his act together and purge his stuff. This is definitely the behavior of a drug or alcohol addict. I praise Kimberly for being able to survive.

If you enjoy reading memoirs then definitely give this one a try. Check out this video I found of Kimberly talking about the book and her life.

Thanks to New Harvest (Amazon) for the book in exchange for an honest review.


Suus said...

Great review, very informative!

Carol Fragale Brill said...

I love this book cover. It's simple and engaging