White Dresses

A Memoir of Love and Secrets, Mothers and Daughters
Narrated by: Mary Pflum Peterson
Length: 9 hrs and 23 mins
4 out of 5 stars (64 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

In this riveting, poignant memoir of three generations of women and the white dresses that adorned them, Emmy Award-winning television producer Mary Pflum Peterson recounts a journey through loss, redemption, and her battle to rescue her mother from compulsive hoarding. As a successful television journalist at Good Morning America, Mary Pflum is known as a polished and highly organized producer. It's a persona at odds with her tortured childhood, where she watched her emotionally vulnerable mother fill their house with teetering piles of assorted "treasures." But one thing has always united mother and daughter: their love of white dresses. From the dress worn by Mary's mother when she became a nun and married Jesus to the wedding gown she donned years later to the special nightshirts she gifted Mary after the birth of her children,to graduation dresses and christening gowns, these white dresses embodied hope and new beginnings.

After her mother's sudden death in 2010, Mary dug deep to understand the events that led to Anne's unraveling. At 21 Anne entered a convent and committed to a life of prayer and helping others. But lengthy periods of enforced fasting, isolation from her beloved students, and constant humiliation eventually drove her to flee the convent almost a decade later. Hoping to find new purpose as a wife and mother, Anne instead married an abusive, closeted gay man - their eventual divorce another sign of her failure. Anne retreated into chaos. By the time Mary was 10, their house was cluttered with broken appliances and stacks of unopened mail. Anne promised but failed to clean up for Mary's high school graduation party, where she was being honored as her school's valedictorian, causing Anne's perfectionist daughter's fear and shame to grow in tandem with the heaps upon heaps of junk. In spite of everything, their bond endured. Through the white dresses, pivotal events in their lives were celebrated-even as Mary tried in vain to save Anne from herself. Unflinchingly honest, insightful, and compelling, White Dresses is a beautiful, powerful story - and a reminder of the unbreakable bonds between mothers and daughters.

©2015 Blackstone Audio, Inc. (P)2015 Blackstone Audiobooks

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Interesting dark family truths

Riveting story, engrossing, heartbreaking.
This book was fascinating, a gay father and the horrors that inflicted on the man and his wife and family.
A mother who is an increasing hoarder, to depths not imaginable.
I struggled though in how to rate this book -- firstly because the white dresses thread was thin at best, almost desperate to draw people to this book for invalid reasons.
But the real struggle I had is that I detested the selfishness of the daughter/author by the end of the book. She is deluding herself to act as if she was trying to help her mother by living a high career life far away, not pressing to see the house when in town, not offering to move her mother sooner, not spending time in town with her mother to really help.
I have taken care of 2 sick parents, one of whom had mental as well as physical challenges. It is not pretty, It is not accomplished without changing the rest of your world to really help better the situation. But I would do the same if I had to all over -- I was doing what I should have been doing, with my parents, there every day, a journey that was very rewarding in the end.
The author not only did not lift a finger to uncover the inconvenient real truths while her mother was alive -- she had the nerve to be angry when, as she was not helping her mother in need, she expected her mother (who was not well) to rush to her aid instead of having cultivated relationships of support in NYC where her high income and career kept her from being a good daughter, sister, niece so she would have a had a support network and not been angry with her poor sick mother.
The conceit and vanity of the author also just annoyed me. The amount of descriptive words for a single garment/outfit, the author's figure/shape -- just silly.
In the end a tragic story, fascinating in its read -- but I sure with this mother had a caring daughter who would have really stepped up and stepped in.
My the children of this author treat her much better should her later years require it.

1 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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A good listen

I had to read this for book club and thought, oh boy, a book about dresses. Well, as it turns out, it's a book about life, and a family, and some really noteworthy women, that led interesting and inspirational lives. Depression rears it's ugly head at times, in the telling, but it's no wonder, with the situations that the author's mother lived through. That she turned out to be the kind and loving woman she became, is a testament of resilience and fortitude. You might surmise this came from her faith and I believe that may have played a huge role, but I believe she was just one of those people with inherent goodness that shoulder on with enormous amounts of empathy for others while sacrificing the dignity of themselves. The author tells her story beautifully and in a voice that is clear and bright enunciating each passage clearly. Overall, this was a great selection and I believe, time well spent.

1 person found this helpful

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Beautiful and heart wrenching

The author has captured the special love between mothers and daughters, even though we mother and daughters are not perfect. This is a masterpiece .

1 person found this helpful

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White Dresses A Memoir of Love and Secrets, Mother

I originally bought this audio several years ago. It was a book club selection. I re-read it recently and still enjoyed it very much.