Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dirty Little Secrets

Last fall I caught an episode of Hoarders on TLC. For some reason I find the whole idea of hoarding sort of fascinating in a sick way, and while I was totally disgusted by the way these people live, I just couldn't help but watch.

CJ Omololu's book Dirty Little Secrets gives an entirely different slant on the subject of hoarding. Lucy is sixteen, living with her mother who is a hoarder. While Lucy recognizes the way her mother chooses to live as abnormal, there is little she can do about it. Her mother seems verbally abusive, although Lucy can faintly remember a time when her mother was kind and their home was not an embarassment. Now their home is not just cluttered - it is a health hazard. Old food, stacks of newspapers and magazines, and bag after bag of items purchased, but never opened or used take up much of the space in Lucy's home. The one time her mother was hospitalized and Lucy's aunt Jean came to stay with them, Lucy, Jean and Lucy's brother Phlip cleaned the house from top to bottom. Proud of their accomplishment, they quickly came to realize how unhappy (in fact, angry) their mother was with them. Jean quickly packed her bags and left, and Philip and Lucy were alone with their mother- once again subjected to her hoarding.
Dirty Little Secrets takes place in less than twenty four hours, the story beginning when Lucy discovers her mother dead in their home. The obvious response would be to call someone for help. However, because Lucy is so embarrassed by the state of their home she just can't make herself do that- worried that people will judge her and make fun of her when they see how she lived. Lucy's response is to attempt to clean up her home, making it possible for her to then call for emergency help. It is only after hours of cleaning that Lucy realizes how desperate her situation is and must make a decision to end this nightmare.
I really found this book rather fascinating - how interesting to find that Lucy's mother at one point was a neat freak, and that her mother (Lucy's grandmother) was a hoarder. Lucy and her siblings all had different reactions to the hoarding as well ranging from supportive to anger. And the lengths that Lucy went to in order to protect her secret were amazing.
This book is definitely timely with a television show focusing on this behavior, offering a very interesting look at a teenager's life in a household dealing with this disorder.Visit CJ Omololu's website

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