Collecting Dreams is a wonderful book. As the son of a hoarder myself I totally understand the confusion, the total bewilderment and even the disorientation that is part and parcel of being a hoarder's offspring. I can't even begin to tell you how old some of the food was in my Mum's deep freeze, but she has rooms that have been locked for over twenty years.
Whilst myself and my wife enjoy clearing space out of lives, my mother sees that as being wasteful. A trip to the dump is simply frittering away stuff that "might come in handy one day."
I originally thought this happened to people who'd been through the war years when everything was rationed, but I no longer think that's the case. I think my own mother surrounded herself with 'stuff' as some kind of protection. Against what, I don't know.
I've tried talking to her. I've tried to understand what it is about old train tickets, old blankets, old jars that once contained jam, old manuscripts, old shit that comforts her. But she won't tell me. My mother has never been very articulate and I feel it's just that she can't explain. Unfortunately she lives in a house that is now unsafe. Everywhere you go there are trip hazards and fire hazards.
However, I'm supposed to be writing a book review, and I'm sure the prospective reader doesn't want to hear my situation. Collecting Dreams is a lovely book and I highly recommend it. Not only do we see glimpses inside the lifestyle of a person with hoarding disorder but Sue Whitmer digs deep into the persona of an individual whose inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects causes significant adverse effects on family members.
Most of us can move through our house with ease, but a hoarder's abode is so full of junk that cooking, cleaning and even sleeping that can present challenges that are not easily conquered.
Excessive acquisition is now a recognised illness but, as Sue so eloquently points out, one that is extremely hard to deal with because you don't have the co-operation of the patient, who will fight you tooth and nail.
So why do I say this is a lovely book? Because it's not all about excessive acquisition. In alternate chapters Sue allows us beautiful and touching glimpses into small town American life, and at times the storyline is quite stunning. And this is the magic in this book.
There are surprises here, diamonds in the rough if you like, but I'm no spoiler and you're going to have to purchase the book to find them. Suffice to say, this story captured me and forced me to think very deeply about certain issues that had never crossed my mind before.
Well done to the author. She really is a very good writer.