Coming Clean

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Several years ago, I reviewed C.J. Omololu’s novel Dirty Little Secrets, which is about a teenage girl named Lucy who is faced with the possibility that the whole world will find out about her mom’s secret hoarding. While surfing the net looking for memoirs, I found Coming Clean, a memoir about a girl who actually grew up in a hoarding household.

Kimberly Rae Miller is a writer and actress who lives in New York City. Like everyone else, she had a childhood, growing up on Long Island as an only child with her parents. But her childhood had one major secret. Her father was an information hoarder, and loved collecting magazines, newspapers and anything else that contained knowledge. His habit caused several problems for her family as Kimberly was growing up, including a house fire, several health issues, and them having to constantly move.

Memoirs have always fascinated me because of people’s personal stories. There’s something about reading real-life experiences that help you understand people better and even relate them to your own life. This one was no different. I could feel Kimberly’s frustration throughout the memoir. She clearly loves her parents, but wants to forge her own path and make something of her life. Her parents constantly draw her back in as they move from place to place and continue to fill it up with stuff.  She fears growing up to have the same lifestyle as them and having people finding out about her parent’s habits.

The book brings to light the issue of hoarding, which actually affects a million people in the United States alone. I myself didn’t grow up in a hoarding family. (Although my empty nest parents do use my brother’s old bedroom as a “craft room.”) But I can relate to the feeling of not wanting people to know about certain parts of my life because of what they might think. Kimberly admits that the hoarding still affects her psychologically, and that writing was her outlet. I’ve always liked writing about my experiences, because it feels great to get it out in the open.

I definitely recommend Coming Clean because it’s a book about honesty and overcoming obstacles to make your life your own.

coming Clean

 

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Always the Bridesmaid

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This past weekend I got to be a bridesmaid in a college friend’s wedding up near my hometown. It was a wonderful weekend, filled with reunions with old friends and the making of new ones. Being in the wedding mood, I found Always the Bridesmaid by Lindsey Kelk in the ebook selection of D.C.’s online library.

As an event planner assistant, Madeline “Maddie” Fraser has spent the past ten years organizing dozens of weddings, birthday parties and a host of other events. Now, at 31, Maddie is starting to feel restless in both her professional and personal life. She is craving more responsibility at work and hopes to be promoted to an event manager, even if it means continuing to suffer under her strict boss Shona. In her personal life, she is serving as a bridesmaid for her engaged best friend Lauren, which is contrasted by the divorce of their mutual friend Sarah. Soon, her personal life comes crashing into her professional life when Lauren insists that Maddie plan Lauren’s wedding in three short months. Maddie’s life is further made difficult by her successful family’s disapproval of her lifestyle, although she finds relief with her involvement with handsome and charming lawyer Will.

This novel actually takes place in the United Kingdom, which I discovered after reading the first chapter. I spent some time in the UK during college, so I understood most of the vocabulary. For the words I didn’t know, Kindle’s built-in dictionary helped, as did good old-fashioned context clues.

Kelk did a great job of incorporating modern day and relatable issues. One of the biggest ones was the expectations that Maddie’s family had toward her that she should be “settled down” by age 31. This reflects the pressure that most females are supposed to be married and have kids by a certain age. I couldn’t relate to this more, with a Facebook feed full of weddings and kid announcements (although neither are in my near future.) The juxtaposition of Lauren’s engagement and Sarah’s divorce provided an interesting perspective of the opposite ends of a relationship, and added development to Maddie’s character as she struggled with having to comfort Sarah and be excited for Lauren at the same time. The stress affects all of them at several times throughout the story, an accurate portrayal of juggling work and personal life.

The plot also explores the idea of a toxic work environment. Maddie has been in the same job position for over a decade, and has to decide whether it’s worth remaining in it or moving on. Kelk sends the important message of how an unfulfilling job can affect one’s well being.

I definitely recommend this novel because of its accurate depictions of everyday struggles.