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Coming Clean  By  cover art

Coming Clean

By: Kimberly Rae Miller
Narrated by: Kimberly Rae Miller
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Publisher's summary

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.

©2013 Kimberly Rae Miller (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, Inc.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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Vicarious Hoarding

I have an interest in hoarding that I find hard to explain to myself, since I've never seen it in my own family (we're mainly drunkards) nor among my friends (more victims of bad taste rather than hoarders.) I suspect it may be a reflection of my own "everything in its place, and I mean EVERYTHING, do I have to do everything around here myself? Were you raised by wild pigs?" mentality.

But whatever the reason, since awareness of the disorder (and I do think it's a mental disorder with physical symptoms) surfaced in mainstream culture, I've been fascinated. I think I really want to know why someone would do this to themselves and their families.

Kimberly Rae Miller does not answer this question. Instead, she gives us an insider's look at what it is like to grow up in a hoard and to love the parents who "chose the stuff over me." I was really surprised by the strength of the love binding Kim and her parents, bonds that all the stuff in the world couldn't break (though there were times...)

I admit I was teary-eyed at several places in the narrative, which the author does very skillfully herself. At the end, I was pretty sure that Kim is as in the dark as most people who do not have the disorder are about why hoarders do the things that they do, but that she was lucky to come from the family she did nonetheless.

Recommend.

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70 people found this helpful

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Amazing Story with So-So Narration

Would you consider the audio edition of Coming Clean to be better than the print version?

I have not read the print version.
I do love audio books and hearing the author read this book was definitely a plus. However, the author was almost whispering through long portions of the book. Maybe she was just a little too close to the material to be a good choice to read it.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Coming Clean?

Definitely when the author tells a little white lie that turns into a massive problem for her parents.

What three words best describe Kimberly Rae Miller’s voice?

Soft, Whispery, Detached

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

Yes, knowing that there are millions of people in the US who live in houses at all stages of hoarding. To think of children trying to survive in these conditions is just heartbreaking. Seeing an hour long television show is nothing like hearing about decades of the problem affecting a family.

Any additional comments?

I think the author did an amazing job of showing her parents as people who are struggling with a disorder, but that was not the only thing that defined them. I truly hope that she is able to set appropriate boundaries and have a family of her own.

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29 people found this helpful

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It's Like a Car Wreck...

....you can't look away. I feel so incredibly normal after listening to Miller's tale of life with two hoarding parents. She draws a clear picture in the listener's mind of the filth and chaos amidst which she lived as a child and the impact that situation had on her as she became an adult. Though the book is relatively short, it is just the right length to keep your interest.

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Very well done!

What did you love best about Coming Clean?

It was a well organized story about the emotional struggles resulting from growing up with hoarding parents. I didn't have to backtrack, thinking I missed a key piece of information. The story and narration flowed smoothly and kept my interest.

What did you like best about this story?

I liked the honesty of the writer. Her struggles on several levels were sad, but fascinating.

What about Kimberly Rae Miller’s performance did you like?

Loved the performance! Her voice is smooth and clear with appropriate inflection. The fact that it was HER story came through stunningly in the narration.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes.

Any additional comments?

I'd love to read/hear more works by this author.

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23 people found this helpful

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Hoarder!

Who knew that being the daughter of a compulsive hoarder would precipitate so much dysfunction? This is an eye-opening book written by the only child of a man who could not throw anything away, and a woman who was a compulsive shopper. Not a good combination. The reasons for these dysfunctions are deep-seated and hard to remove. As part of her journey, Kimberly had to accept the fact that they would probably never change. It was a rough journey for all of them, but beautiful to watch as Kimberly was able to achieve her own goals. Very well written and narrated, this book was a great listen.

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22 people found this helpful

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Outstanding!

I had low expectations for this book. In fact, I let it reside on my MP3 player for quite some time, leaving it for the last. Boy, was I ever wrong! Once I grudgingly started it, I couldn't put it down. Everything about this novel is top-notch, from the story to the narration. It tells the story of what it's like to be the only child of hoarders, from childhood to adulthood, and how it changes who you are. There are struggles and anger, but there is also undying love and guarded hopefulness. I cried more than a few times throughout this superb novel, but there were laughs too.

This novel will stay with me for a long time and eventually, I'll re-read it. It was that good.

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Amazingly difficult story with a "happy ending."

Not since "Glass Castle" by Jeannette Walls has a memoir moved me so deeply (and if, after reading Coming Clean, you find yourself thinking "what a great book!" you might want to read or listen to "The Glass Castle: A Memoir")

I digress. Ms. Miller offers the memoir of her childhood entrapment in and young adulthood escape from the misery of her very sick parents with simple, very clean prose (fitting, it would seem.) From the first words, it was clear that this was an unusually bright child with a very big problem - two, in fact. Her parents' mental and physical challenges create a world for this little girl that is difficult to imagine ... until she tells us about it. Then it comes to life.

Her gift for presenting her little girl's world with the brutal frankness of a child, without flinching from the facts or sparing our feelings makes the unfolding of the story mesmerizing. But it is in some ways also joyful to read because, as adults, we understand how broken her life was and yet how much she was given by parents who, while damaged and damaging, were also as loving and generous and giving as they knew how to be.

The book is also a testament to the tenacity of some people and their ability to overcome. She could do what her father and mother could not and thus saved not only herself but, to a great extent, her parents as well.

I found Ms. Miller's reading of the book to be less than satisfactory as her very soft voice and the "flat" presentation were distracting. I also found her range of voices was very limited so It was sometimes difficult to follow who was speaking when it was not her character, her father or her mother. A professional narrator might have given the characters more depth, which I think would have been a good thing.

Nevertheless, it's a deeply moving, extremely compelling, what-in-the-world-will-happen-next story.

Highly recommend for either reading or listening.

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Hoarding parent

My father is a hoarder and this book touched on many of the feelings of shame, embarrassment, and frustration I have had. I feel that I am very much like Kimberly. I'm not sure if someone who has not dealt with hoarding would enjoy it as much but for me it helped me feel better about my experiences.

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Thought provoking...

This was one of those "in between" books. While waiting for a couple of books to be released, I came upon this one. This is a story about a girl living with parents who are hoarders. The beginning was a little slow, but eventually I found myself amazed as to what this girl had to go through. I can't imagine having to go to a gym to bathe because my bathtub at home is full of junk. The idea of having to wake my mother because I can hear rats crawling in my room, makes me shiver. This book really makes you think about what children of hoarders go through, makes you angry with the parents yet you feel for them at the same time.

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Not the kind of people good things happened to

Growing up, I was friends with two sisters, M- and J-. They lived in a large three story Victorian house that was charmingly painted in authentic pre-20th century colors. I was invited to their home one day, and was shocked to find the living room stacked to the top of the 12' high ceiling with boxes, with just a narrow path to a couch and to the restroom. Startled, I asked if they were getting ready to move. M- and J- assured me they weren't. I've wondered for more than 30 years what it was like for my friends, living like that.

Years later, shows like Style Network's "Clean House" (2003-2011), followed by A&E's "Hoarders" (2009-2013; 2015-present); TLC's "Hoarding: Buried Alive" (2010-2013) gave a name for what I'd seen so long ago: compulsive hoarding. It's a phenomenon that's been trendy to watch - in a train wreck kind of way - for a while. It's often a heartbreaking, sometimes inexplicable watch - why do hoarders hoard, and why do people stay with them?

Kimberly Rae Miller touches on the first question lightly, but "Coming Clean: A Memoir" (2013) is really about why she and her mother stayed with Miller's father, a prodigious hoarder. Miller's physically and emotionally fragile mother had a compulsive shopping habit, so there's a synergy - or, more aptly, a codependence.

Miller, as their child, didn't have a choice. The conditions she grew up in were not only oppressively cluttered but often out-and-out dangerous. Miller mentions broken pipes that weren't fixed because her parents were too embarrassed by piled up papers and junk to have someone in to make repairs. There was flooding, squishy papers, fleas, vermin, and even a squatter who lived undiscovered in the attic. She also mentions repeated trips to the hospital emergency room for asthma. Miller was treated so often the hospital gave her a breathing machine. No one investigated how she was living and why she kept getting so sick. Miller did such a good job covering and passing, she appeared to almost everyone to be a typical middle class teenager. What Miller described was something I'd tried to imagine about my friends' life, but I know now that I underestimated how bad things must have been.

Miller is an actress now, but in a way, she's been one almost her entire life. She's also so compulsively an unhoarder she could probably give Marie Kondo ("The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up" (2011, Japanese; 2014, English), "Spark Joy" (2016)) lessons on throwing things out. What was most touching about the whole book is that Miller - although she is probably always going to be mad at her parents for her upbringing - doesn't hate them. She loves them, and time after time, with patience mixed with exasperation, tries to help them.

Miller performed the book herself, and it was a good production. I'd expect she would do well as an Audible narrator for other authors if she chose.

The title of the review is a paraphrase of a longer quote from "Coming Clean."

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