Title: Coming Clean
Author: Kimberly Rae Miller
Read: May 15, 2014
Summary: A stunning memoir about a childhood spent growing up in a family of extreme hoarders and hiding squalor behind the veneer of a perfect family. Kim Miller is an immaculately put-together woman with a great career, a loving boyfriend, and a beautifully tidy apartment in Brooklyn. You would never guess that she spent her childhood hiding behind the closed doors of her family’s idyllic Long Island house, navigating between teetering stacks of aging newspaper, 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 coming-of-age story, Kim brings to life her experience of growing up in a rat-infested home, concealing her father’s shameful secret from friends for years, and of 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. goodreads
Review: This is a tragic, yet beautiful story of how Kim survived growing up in a house with a hoarder. Hoarding has become a hot topic in the media over the last 10 years. People are oddly intrigued by it because they can't fathom how someone can get to that point in their lives, but not many people understand the psychological aspect of the illness and how debilitating it can be. Kim Miller does a great job of explaining this in her memoir but it is heartbreaking to learn that she had to endure this lifestyle for so long.
I really enjoyed Kim's writing and her way of story telling. She does a good job of using humor to cope and it is clear that it took her a long time to get to the point she is now, but it says a lot of her coping skills that she can look back on this now and find some humor in it. I'm sure in the moment, it was not funny. Kim is also one of those kids who was raised by people with mental illness and who grew up to be the exact opposite of what her parents were. She is driven, accomplished, a neat-freak, and much more mainstream than her hippie father. That being said, there are some similarities. She is very strong and I think that she gets from both of her parents. People forget that hoarding is a coping skill for people and they are doing their very best to get through the day like everyone else. Kim's dad couldn't control his hoarding but he was surviving. Kim's mom did not start out as a hoarder and she had to deal with multiple health problems as well as a spouse who hoarded, so she coped the best she could by shopping. All of the Millers are very strong people but Kim found ways of using healthy coping skills and that is what made all the difference.
Y'all know I'm into the psychological side of this book but despite that, it is very well written and kept me entertained thoroughly. It made sense to me why these nonsensical things happened but my heart broke for Kim every time she had to ask for help with her parents. Kim is a very good daughter and the love she has for her parents is ever lasting but they definitely push her to her limits. I recommend this book to anyone who doesn't understand their parents but loves them regardless. Or, you know, anyone interested in a good book about a unique situation.