Dirty Secret by Jessie Sholl
Bugs. That is what I will forever remember about this book, which I picked up because of my interest in (OK, obsession with) Hoarders.
At first it was a comfortably familiar scenario: girl leaves exciting job and sympathetic partner in NYC to help sick, hoarding mother in Midwestern city. There was the usual back-and-forth, past-and-present description, providing insight on how the problem began, how it progressed, what the situation was like now, and the impact it had on the author. Mom’s house was a wreck – an assorted mess of unopened bags from the thrift store, clothes and knick-knacks piled everywhere but on the shelves where they belonged, used food containers, non-working appliances. Nothing I hadn’t seen on my TV screen week after week.
Then, as my kids would say, “shit got real.”
After one extended visit with Mom, the author’s feet started itching. Tracing the source of the problem to a used pillow the hoarder “couldn’t resist” purchasing at the thrift shop, at first she thought the problem was body lice. Bad enough. But the usual poisons, potions and lotions didn’t work, and soon she (and the still-sympathetic, long-suffering partner) were infested with what doctors thought might be mites, causing scabies.
Natural cures, insecticides, creams, gels, lotions … it was hard to concentrate on some of the psychodrama taking place in this book because I kept scratching and wondering why modern medicine didn’t have a cure for the parasites that caused scabies. And how she was able to bring all her bottles and tubes of liquids on the airplane with her to Italy. My mind kept going to the TSA list, and I’d flip back to the publication date just to see if perhaps the rules had been different when the story was written. Then, just when I (and the author) thought the rash was gone and the bugs were dead, another visit to Mom brought about a relapse. Itch, scratch, itch.
I might have been better able to concentrate on the psychological aspects of this book if it weren’t for the “skeeve” factor. But alas, it is what it is. And as much as I enjoyed the read, I was happy I could stop scratching once I reached the end.