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In this riveting, poignant memoir of  three generations of women and the white dresses that adorned them—television producer Mary Pflum Peterson recounts a journey through loss and redemption, and her battle to rescue her mother, a former nun, from compulsive hoarding. As a successful television journalist at Good Morning America, Mary Pflum is known as a polished and highl In this riveting, poignant memoir of  three generations of women and the white dresses that adorned them—television producer Mary Pflum Peterson recounts a journey through loss and redemption, and her battle to rescue her mother, a former nun, 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 digs deep to understand the events that led to Anne’s unraveling. At twenty-one, Anne entered a convent, 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 retreats into chaos. By the time Mary is ten, their house is cluttered with broken appliances and stacks of unopened mail. Anne promises but fails to clean up for Mary’s high school graduation party, where Mary is being honored as her school’s valedictorian, causing her perfectionist daughter’s fear and shame to grow in tandem with the heaps upon heaps of junk. In spite of everything, their bond endures. Through the white dresses, pivotal events in their lives are celebrated, even as Mary tries 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. 


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In this riveting, poignant memoir of  three generations of women and the white dresses that adorned them—television producer Mary Pflum Peterson recounts a journey through loss and redemption, and her battle to rescue her mother, a former nun, from compulsive hoarding. As a successful television journalist at Good Morning America, Mary Pflum is known as a polished and highl In this riveting, poignant memoir of  three generations of women and the white dresses that adorned them—television producer Mary Pflum Peterson recounts a journey through loss and redemption, and her battle to rescue her mother, a former nun, 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 digs deep to understand the events that led to Anne’s unraveling. At twenty-one, Anne entered a convent, 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 retreats into chaos. By the time Mary is ten, their house is cluttered with broken appliances and stacks of unopened mail. Anne promises but fails to clean up for Mary’s high school graduation party, where Mary is being honored as her school’s valedictorian, causing her perfectionist daughter’s fear and shame to grow in tandem with the heaps upon heaps of junk. In spite of everything, their bond endures. Through the white dresses, pivotal events in their lives are celebrated, even as Mary tries 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. 

30 review for White Dresses: A Memoir of Love and Secrets, Mothers and Daughters

  1. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    This premise is good, and the white dress theme is a pretty clever (though at times, a bit tenuous) device to tie it all together. However, I felt like the execution came a little undone due to the writer being a bit overly fascinated with her family (yet oddly, not as much so with her mother's apparent mental illness). The way she kept using her mother's full name over and over felt like she was viewing her, and expecting readers to view her, with a reverence that seemed a little overwrought. T This premise is good, and the white dress theme is a pretty clever (though at times, a bit tenuous) device to tie it all together. However, I felt like the execution came a little undone due to the writer being a bit overly fascinated with her family (yet oddly, not as much so with her mother's apparent mental illness). The way she kept using her mother's full name over and over felt like she was viewing her, and expecting readers to view her, with a reverence that seemed a little overwrought. That paled in comparison, though, to how amazed the author seems to be with herself. Rightly so, to an extent--she has done some impressive things and has overcome some obstacles--but she does not trust her readers to figure that out. In one brief four-sentence span about her high school experiences, she uses the word "accomplished" THREE times. Once is as a verb, and twice is as an adjective to describe her teenage self. Usually "accomplished" is not a word people use to describe themselves, but especially not to describe themselves in high school! Ironically considering the repetitive wording, one use was in specific reference to herself as a writer. I noticed this tendency (to use the same word several times within a couple paragraphs) a number of times in this book. The degree to which she is pleased with herself also extended to her physical characteristics, many of which get lovingly described for readers, although I couldn't figure out what that had to do with anything. I have read several books since this one, so I don't recall all the physical attributes that get a shout-out, but I remember that there were a lot, including her "spun-gold" hair and her incredibly long legs. She validates her self-assessment of her beauty by alluding to various men throwing themselves at her, practically dying to marry her. And speaking of marriage, rest assured that she looked unbelievable on her wedding day. She can tell you more about that, if you care. She came across as so in awe of her own beauty (again, I didn't see how this mattered to the plot/themes) that I actually googled her, just to see this what this amazing, otherworldly goddess looks like. Ultimately, though she does have a lot to be proud of in terms of what she has done in life, her fascination with herself and superficial things took me away from the heart of the book (her mom) and left me thinking that it was she, not I, who missed the point.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Diane

    Mary Pflum Peterson opens her emotionally moving memoir White Dresses as she is frantically searching through her mother's closet for the white dresses that marked the most memorable days of her life, such as her Communion dress, and her high school graduation dress. But her mother's closet was not like most of our mother's closets. Mary's mother Anne Diener Pflum was a hoarder. For over twenty years, she didn't throw anything away. The home was filled with broken appliances, bags of trash, dead Mary Pflum Peterson opens her emotionally moving memoir White Dresses as she is frantically searching through her mother's closet for the white dresses that marked the most memorable days of her life, such as her Communion dress, and her high school graduation dress. But her mother's closet was not like most of our mother's closets. Mary's mother Anne Diener Pflum was a hoarder. For over twenty years, she didn't throw anything away. The home was filled with broken appliances, bags of trash, dead animals, piles of clothes, newspapers and years of unopened mail. Mary could barely make it up the stairs to get to the closet. Like most hoarders, there was a mental illness behind Anne's hoarding behavior. Mary sets out to discover what in her mother's life caused her to become a hoarder, and she writes her mother's story with such a compassionately clear eye that White Dresses is one of the most compelling memoirs I have ever read. Anne grew up in a strict Catholic family, with a father she wanted attention from and a mother who only wanted the attention of her husband. Anne's mother had five miscarriages after she had had five babies in six years, Anne being the oldest. The first trauma in Anne's life came when her mother decided it was time to throw away young Anne's security blanket. Anne considered the blanket her friend and couldn't believe that her mother took it away from her. Anne was a good student, and was excited to be able to go away to college. She thrived there, studying hard, making good friends and finding a boyfriend she adored. Then her boyfriend transferred to a different school and Anne fell into a terrible depression and returned home. Her parents didn't know what to do with her, other than pray, and soon Anne decided to enter the convent like her younger sister did. Her family was shocked, but they let her go. Life at the convent was very difficult, and not a good solution for a young woman suffering from depression. Anne became seriously ill, and if not for the intervention of a young priest who insisted that the nuns take Anne to a hospital, she would have died. Eventually Anne left the convent and returned to college. There she met Dale and as she was getting on in age and wanted a family, she ignored signs that she shouldn't have, and she married Dale over the objection of the priest who saved her life. Anne and Dale had two children, Mary and Anthony. Life as a family was difficult, even more so when Dale finally told Anne that he was gay and wanted a divorce. Left with two young children, Anne began her hoarding behavior that would only worsen over the years. Mary talks to her aunts and uncles and learns things about her mother that she didn't know. One thing that White Dresses will encourage you to do is to talk to your parents to find out what their life was like before they became your mom and dad. It reminds us that they had interesting, and sometimes sad, lives that we may know little about. Mary Pflum tells her mother's story and her own through the white dresses that mark the major milestones in their lives. Wearing white meant a new beginning, a cleansing for your life. Saving those dresses was important to Mary because even if she couldn't save her mother from her hoarding behavior, she could at least save the dresses they shared. You can feel the sadness and frustration that Mary feels about her mother, but you can also feel her love and compassion as well. Mary loves her mother and even when she is disappointed in her behavior, that love is evident. I give White Dresses my highest recommendation and it would make a wonderful book to share with your mother and with your book club.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Charlene

    Do yourself a favor and read Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller instead. Because of its subject matter, this book had real potential, but even when relating the most interesting parts there was very little insight or ability to bring a story to life and let that story connect with the reader. This author tried to provide a sweeping history of her parents lives from the time they were born, with a focus on her mother who became a hoarder. Her mother had been a nun prior to meeting her father. He Do yourself a favor and read Coming Clean by Kimberly Rae Miller instead. Because of its subject matter, this book had real potential, but even when relating the most interesting parts there was very little insight or ability to bring a story to life and let that story connect with the reader. This author tried to provide a sweeping history of her parents lives from the time they were born, with a focus on her mother who became a hoarder. Her mother had been a nun prior to meeting her father. Her father was a closeted gay man in the 70s who was trying very hard to get through life as a straight married man. When he finally came out, after wanting to kill himself because of his double life, he felt such hatred for himself. It was actually her mother -- the woman who was hurt by this news the most because it upended her life and sewed the seeds of chaos that would only grow from there -- who helped him find love and acceptance. The author herself went on to become valedictorian of her high school, study at Cornell, get a job at CNN and later the Today Show. With such credentials, I imagined she would be a great writer. But it all felt very shallow, despite the incredible material at her disposal.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Bridget

    My review of this book is mixed. I thought it would be a solid three star book when I started it, and the true story itself about the author's mother was interesting and touching. Plus, it was relatable in that my mom was born the same month and year as the author's mother and I am just a bit younger than the author. Our mothers seemed to have similar personalities in that both were selfless and cared most for their children's happiness over their own. They also passed away about the same time. My review of this book is mixed. I thought it would be a solid three star book when I started it, and the true story itself about the author's mother was interesting and touching. Plus, it was relatable in that my mom was born the same month and year as the author's mother and I am just a bit younger than the author. Our mothers seemed to have similar personalities in that both were selfless and cared most for their children's happiness over their own. They also passed away about the same time. Other relatable portions of the story were faith, church, midwest living, and the ways depression can manifest. Why did I knock it down to two stars? For one thing, it was a sort of written dryly. The big reason for marking it down from three to two stars was because of some things the author inlcuded that really had nothing to do with the story of her relationship with her mother, and frankly made her come off as arrogant and conceited. Did we have to read about how so many men pursued her during her young adulthood, showering her with gifts, begging loudly and longly, called her a tease, and told her that she had "driven them to" having "a horribly painful physical condition called blue balls"? Or that when she tried on her wedding gown, others gathered around her and "burst into applause", "cried", wanted to take her picture, told her how lucky she was to have the figure to pull off that gown? They even left the bride to be that they came with "to fend for herself and gathered around..to ooh and ahh". The author throws in one jab at the other bride to be, too, commenting that the gown she was trying on "wasn't particularly flattering on her pear shaped figure." If that wasn't enough, the reader is told later by the author that she has "perky breasts" and 'toned legs". Couple this with her constant mention of high end brands , and her comments about her mother shopping for clothes at big box stores like Shopko and Walmart as if that was below her, the author seems very arrogant, indeed, as well as narcissistic. One other thing was unnecessary, too. I realize that she was describing how consumating the marriage is tied in with Catholicism, and was thus important to her mother, but, really, there are just some things that should remain private and sacred. In ths case, her father's abiity to achieve and maintain an erection and ejaculate. Eww! TMI about your parents. Heck, she should not even know about that situation, much less write about it. The end of the book gets back on track and is much better, although very sad because at that point her mother passes away and we learn of the extent of her hoarding and the author's brother's reaction. It ends on a beauful note with the retrieving of the white dresses from her mother's home, and the letters her mother shared with a beloved priest. I am glad I got this book from the libray rather than purchasing.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Sallie Dunn

    I really wanted to like this book. But there is something about it that I’m trying to put my finger on. The author is the daughter of the lady about whom this book is written. Maybe I’m wrong; the book is about both of them. But it comes off somewhat arrogant. Poor midwestern girl with tough childhood makes good, becomes successful Emmy award winning producer, and Momma back home is wallowing in her miserable hoarding tendency life. And the successful Emmy award winning daughter just can’t help I really wanted to like this book. But there is something about it that I’m trying to put my finger on. The author is the daughter of the lady about whom this book is written. Maybe I’m wrong; the book is about both of them. But it comes off somewhat arrogant. Poor midwestern girl with tough childhood makes good, becomes successful Emmy award winning producer, and Momma back home is wallowing in her miserable hoarding tendency life. And the successful Emmy award winning daughter just can’t help her. Should be a great story; just a little too much braggadocio on the daughter’s part for me.

  6. 4 out of 5

    PlathFan1

    As a feminist and recovering Catholic, I applaud the author's strong effort (and strong will!) to evenhandedly describe a remarkable woman, her mother, Anne. The poignant moments are frequent and the clear writing really brought them home. Five Stars. As a feminist and recovering Catholic, I applaud the author's strong effort (and strong will!) to evenhandedly describe a remarkable woman, her mother, Anne. The poignant moments are frequent and the clear writing really brought them home. Five Stars.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Joanne

    Several of my favorite books ever are memoirs of turbulent childhoods. I adored Angela’s Ashes and The Glass Castle because despite these children having parents that were completely feckless or somehow damaged, they loved them anyway and that love shone through the pages. I had the same hopes for White Dresses after reading its book description. But no warm fuzzies from this one! Something about this book seemed opportunistic to me. The details were inappropriately intimate and to me, would be Several of my favorite books ever are memoirs of turbulent childhoods. I adored Angela’s Ashes and The Glass Castle because despite these children having parents that were completely feckless or somehow damaged, they loved them anyway and that love shone through the pages. I had the same hopes for White Dresses after reading its book description. But no warm fuzzies from this one! Something about this book seemed opportunistic to me. The details were inappropriately intimate and to me, would be quite hurtful to these parents if they had lived to see such graphic descriptions of the things in which they held the most hidden shame of their lives would be published in a book. I’m sad for them. I actively disliked this book. I wish I could give a zero star rating, but y’all might think I forgot to log my stars-sort of like those folks who leave a penny so that the waitress knows you didn’t forget to tip. Thumbs down.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Juli Hoffman

    A Flat, Bittersweet Memoir This memoir was somewhat enjoyable, but like other reviewers, I felt that the style of writing changed as the story progressed. I kept waiting for the story to get to the interesting part, but that never really happened. We start with the narrator/author in the present day, but then the book abruptly takes us to the past. We go from the lives of the grandparents, through the mother's life, to the narrator's, and on to the mother's death. But...there was something missing A Flat, Bittersweet Memoir This memoir was somewhat enjoyable, but like other reviewers, I felt that the style of writing changed as the story progressed. I kept waiting for the story to get to the interesting part, but that never really happened. We start with the narrator/author in the present day, but then the book abruptly takes us to the past. We go from the lives of the grandparents, through the mother's life, to the narrator's, and on to the mother's death. But...there was something missing. I think there were too many facts, not enough emotions. I never emphasized with the narrator/author. I tried to understand where she was coming from, but she held too much back, emotions wise. The results were a narrator that often came across as selfish. The author had a brother, but we only hear about him as a child and at the end of the book, after the mother's death. Why did the author's deadbeat dad get so much time on the page, yet her brother got almost no mention? Were the siblings so estranged that the author glossed over her own brother's existence? That's the problem with writing a memoir verses fiction. The author only knows her side of things, her point of view, yet she has attempted to write what other family member were thinking in the past. It took away from the story, the author's story. Instead of empathy with the author, I was annoyed with her. Too much poor me, not enough emotion. Too much telling, not enough showing. I know it takes guts to allow strangers into your personal life, but if you're going to do so, do it all the way or not at all. I never felt sad when anything bad happened to any of the characters, no tears, nothing. I have experience with hoarders, so maybe that came into play while reading. The mother's hoarding didn't come across as shocking. The author acting like a robot, yeah...that was annoying. Unfortunately, the author wrote herself as a cold, insensitive person. Maybe if she'd dug a little deeper, she could have allowed the readers to mourn WITH her. As this story stands, it just feels flat. Instead of feeling sorry for the author, I'm disappointed in her. It's a shame someone didn't say something to the author BEFORE this book was published. The author obviously has great writing skills, but she didn't seem to be able to separate the character of herself from her actual self. Perhaps this would account for the lack of emotional detail.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This was one of those books that I thought I was going to like but just couldn’t fully get into. In this memoir, Mary Pflum Peterson, a former CNN reporter and current Good Morning America producer, uses a series of white dresses to anchor a set of stories about herself and her mother, Anne Diener Pflum. We read descriptions of baptismal outfits, communion dresses, and wedding gowns, but we also learn about the lives of these two women—their joys and a lot of their sorrows. It’s an interesting st This was one of those books that I thought I was going to like but just couldn’t fully get into. In this memoir, Mary Pflum Peterson, a former CNN reporter and current Good Morning America producer, uses a series of white dresses to anchor a set of stories about herself and her mother, Anne Diener Pflum. We read descriptions of baptismal outfits, communion dresses, and wedding gowns, but we also learn about the lives of these two women—their joys and a lot of their sorrows. It’s an interesting structure that gets annoying after a while—each chapter begins with a “created” scene involving a white dress and then Peterson backtracks and tells the story, more traditional memoir style, of the events leading up to and stemming from that moment. As a reader, I felt much more interested in Anne’s story; she grew up in a strict Catholic family in Indiana and worked hard for (but never seemed to get) her mother’s approval. She struggled with depression but was still able to leave her small town and go to college. However, a difficult break up and another bout of depression led her to the convent for a time. These experiences plant the seeds for future problems even as Anne marries, moves to Wisconsin, and becomes a devoted and caring mother, who strives to give her two kids the love and support she felt she lacked growing up. Both mother and daughter face challenges over the years and Peterson does a good job of showing how the problem of her mother’s hoarding starts small but grows into a condition with devastating consequences. Still, I have to say I found Mary Pflum Peterson less interesting and I found myself skimming over stories of her love of frilly dresses, her incredible adventures as a young reporter for CNN, and her dating life. As Mary grows older, changes jobs, meets her husband, and begins to have a family, her mother’s condition becomes worse and the family home becomes a prison for Anne, one that she feels she can’t leave or let people into. The memoir begins and ends with the same story—Mary carefully working her way through teetering piles of stuff in her mother’s home, after her mother has died, hoping to find these important white dresses—that stand for powerful moments in both their lives. I understand Mary’s urge to recover these dresses even as I am kind of dismayed by it and that’s a good analogy for how I felt about the whole book.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    It was beautifully written and deeply honest. Unfortunately, it wasn't interesting. Reading the positive reviews for it, I wonder if it appeals to Catholic women who participated in the "white dress" mythology the book was structured around. That's not me. It was beautifully written and deeply honest. Unfortunately, it wasn't interesting. Reading the positive reviews for it, I wonder if it appeals to Catholic women who participated in the "white dress" mythology the book was structured around. That's not me.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Susy Miller

    I bought this book as a birthday gift for my sister-in-law, because it's about mothers and daughters and because she will face a similar hoarding situation as Mary (the author) did. I decided to read it for fun and to make sure it wasn't going to offend her. I loved it! It was good for me to read this and learn about her story of dealing with a hoarding parent and what else is going on in their mind/life and also realize that there are still amazingly beautiful qualities about the person. This wi I bought this book as a birthday gift for my sister-in-law, because it's about mothers and daughters and because she will face a similar hoarding situation as Mary (the author) did. I decided to read it for fun and to make sure it wasn't going to offend her. I loved it! It was good for me to read this and learn about her story of dealing with a hoarding parent and what else is going on in their mind/life and also realize that there are still amazingly beautiful qualities about the person. This will help me, help my husband as his whole family will have to deal with this problem some day. And as a person who lost my mother too early in life, I will never have to face something like this (nor would I even is she were still alive because she was a neat freak). I fell in love with the beautiful relationship Mary had with her mother, Anne and it makes me want to strive to have that same mother-daughter relationship with my daughter. Besides the fact that Mary tells a great story about her life and journey. All of it was fascinating. I hope my sister-in-law can take away a similar outlook. And who doesn't love a good white dress!

  12. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    Do to lack of time, I was slow to get into this book, but once I did, I couldn’t put it down. I did not relate to the white dresses, but the mother/daughter relationship was fascinating to read. And so much more about adolescents, relationships, and conviction to faith. I highly recommend this book for its excellent writing and insights on many different levels. What an interesting writer. I also really enjoyed her descriptions of life in the mid-west, NYC, and internationally as a journalist.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    This was a nice memoir. There were some sweet relationships in this book that I enjoyed. I also enjoyed listening to the author (audio book) and liked the point of view(s). This book also looked at the relationship between a mother and daughter and mental health issues. I feel like the females in this book were strong but real too (with real, honest struggles). 3.5 rounded up to 4 stars.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Meredith

    Loved this book, I am not Catholic don’t like white dresses (too pale) but I am a Mother. I felt the family pain, depression, complicated love and faith. Sad book but surprisingly uplifting. Great book and it makes me want to clean my basement.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Loni

    No White Washing Here. Powerful book!. Pflum is so honest about her family and her mother's mental health issues. I was startled to read how stark and cruel her time was in the nunnery. That was an eye opener for me. It was certainly not the convent from that Sound of Music. I loved the format of the book and want to recommend this book to others. A really great read. No White Washing Here. Powerful book!. Pflum is so honest about her family and her mother's mental health issues. I was startled to read how stark and cruel her time was in the nunnery. That was an eye opener for me. It was certainly not the convent from that Sound of Music. I loved the format of the book and want to recommend this book to others. A really great read.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sandy Klusmeyer

    It was a very good read, kept you interested and wanting to read more. Hoarding has always tweeted my curiosity and I always feel so sad for the children who are in those sad surroundings. I'm sure it is a hard thing to share also, but everyone has a story, thanks for sharing yours. It was a very good read, kept you interested and wanting to read more. Hoarding has always tweeted my curiosity and I always feel so sad for the children who are in those sad surroundings. I'm sure it is a hard thing to share also, but everyone has a story, thanks for sharing yours.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    Such a wonderful, touching, heartfelt story. This book was great.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Anna

    This book was not what I expected. I can't wait to share it with book club. Lots to talk about. I thought it was as good as Wall's Glass Castles. This book was not what I expected. I can't wait to share it with book club. Lots to talk about. I thought it was as good as Wall's Glass Castles.

  19. 4 out of 5

    S Kudelka

    Well written. Interesting format to highlight each phase of memoir around one of many white dresses worn by the subjects of this book. This structure allowed author to delve into some thorny topics without going into too many details which may have bogged down the narrative. In general an uplifting account of the indomitable spirit a person possesses despite very difficult set backs.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Raven Haired Girl

    Mary Pflum Petersen tells her mother’s story and her own through the white dresses marking major events in their lives. Mary couldn’t rescue her mother from eventual hoarding, however she managed to pull the meaningful white dresses out of the horrific wreckage. Wow, I must say my heart broke for Ann. A beautiful soul suffering harsh emotional blows eventually and slowly taking a toll. So sad to read of her increasing hoarding behavior, stops you in your tracks. Mary’s anguish is evident and my h Mary Pflum Petersen tells her mother’s story and her own through the white dresses marking major events in their lives. Mary couldn’t rescue her mother from eventual hoarding, however she managed to pull the meaningful white dresses out of the horrific wreckage. Wow, I must say my heart broke for Ann. A beautiful soul suffering harsh emotional blows eventually and slowly taking a toll. So sad to read of her increasing hoarding behavior, stops you in your tracks. Mary’s anguish is evident and my heart broke for her as well. Despite the growing issue, their mother-daughter bond was tested but never broken. Mary exercised much patience, compassion and understanding with her mother’s often erratic and sudden behavioral changes, increasingly severe and frequent bouts of depression, occurring especially when Mary had cause to celebrate through her successes and happiness. Mary desperately tries to figure out the why to her mother’s hoarding, grappling with how it became so out of control, especially after suffering the sudden loss of Ann. A bittersweet story of love and the mighty powerful mother-daughter bond. Visit Raven Haired Girl for more reviews & giveaways

  21. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I find myself reading memoirs because I'm interested in how varied and fascinating people's lives can be. I don't expect to learn any profound lessons from them, it's just a journey into an interesting life. On that, this memoir excels. The mother's story is incredibly fascinating -- being the oldest child of a distant mother more interested in her husband and books than her multiple children; experiencing profound heartbreak and depression; becoming a nun in search of purpose and meaning and fi I find myself reading memoirs because I'm interested in how varied and fascinating people's lives can be. I don't expect to learn any profound lessons from them, it's just a journey into an interesting life. On that, this memoir excels. The mother's story is incredibly fascinating -- being the oldest child of a distant mother more interested in her husband and books than her multiple children; experiencing profound heartbreak and depression; becoming a nun in search of purpose and meaning and finding rigidity and oppression; marrying a man hoping for children and stability only to be abused and abandoned; fighting and losing an ongoing battle with depression and hoarding. Those parts of the book were worth four stars. But I didn't like the writing style of the daughter -- dramatic chapter introductions and TMI on everything personal. Once the mother's story started to be overtaken by the daughter's story the book lost my interest. The way the author wrote about herself seemed immature and, again, overly dramatic. Too bad she didn't just stick to her mother's remarkable life.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Regina Calcaterra

    I was fortunate enough to read Mary Plum Peterson's memoir White Dresses prior to its September 15, 2015 release date. My review, which appears on the book's back jacket sums it up as "a brave and courageous page-turming memoir." Mary's mother lived a sad and tragic life, which included disturbing mistreatment when she was a nun. Yet despite the harshness of her younger life and the mental illness she battled which resulted in extreme hoarding, her mother was a committed and loving mother. Mary I was fortunate enough to read Mary Plum Peterson's memoir White Dresses prior to its September 15, 2015 release date. My review, which appears on the book's back jacket sums it up as "a brave and courageous page-turming memoir." Mary's mother lived a sad and tragic life, which included disturbing mistreatment when she was a nun. Yet despite the harshness of her younger life and the mental illness she battled which resulted in extreme hoarding, her mother was a committed and loving mother. Mary tell's her mother's story through the importance that the color white and white dresses had in their lives. Beautifully written. You can learn more about by viewing Good Morning America's segment on White Dresses below. http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/video/confe...

  23. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Doherty

    From the first few pages of ‘White Dresses’ you’ll be drawn in and enthralled by this novel. The author was so honest it felt like you’re there with her on her journey that included many challenges and achievements. Ms. Peterson shows so pointedly the difficulties of relationships with family for adult children. After reading memoir it will open your eyes to hoarding being directly linked to those suffering with depression. A great honest read that will touch your heart!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Carol

    An amazing book! As compassionate a telling of the many journeys we all travel on in life, plus the varied reasons why some succumb to hoarding and the devastating effects it can have on a life, as I have ever read. I wanted to envelop Annie in a hug, and clean up her house. I am in awe of her courage as she carved out a loving life, despite the challenges that were thrown at her. A beautiful loving telling of her life by a loving, forgiving daughter.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Chere Marie

    I enjoyed it but I kept waiting for the author to realize her mother was mentally ill and name her illness; hoarding. She really didn't even mention understanding that until the very end. I did enjoy her story and had compassion for her, like everyone who loves someone with a mental illness she had to make some tough choices I enjoyed it but I kept waiting for the author to realize her mother was mentally ill and name her illness; hoarding. She really didn't even mention understanding that until the very end. I did enjoy her story and had compassion for her, like everyone who loves someone with a mental illness she had to make some tough choices

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    A good story and a wonderful premise, but the execution wasn't quite there. A good story and a wonderful premise, but the execution wasn't quite there.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sandra Porter

    I must say that it took me awhile to get into this book, because it just seemed to be cathartic for the author. But as I read I, I thought about the complicated relationship I had with my Mom and how this book maybe, in a way helped, me to come to grips with that relationship. If you have ever had a complicated relationship with your Mother, or a loving one, this book may be for you. At first when I started reading it, I thought it was just another book about a horribly dysfunctional multi-gener I must say that it took me awhile to get into this book, because it just seemed to be cathartic for the author. But as I read I, I thought about the complicated relationship I had with my Mom and how this book maybe, in a way helped, me to come to grips with that relationship. If you have ever had a complicated relationship with your Mother, or a loving one, this book may be for you. At first when I started reading it, I thought it was just another book about a horribly dysfunctional multi-generational family. But as I read, it became a love letter to Mary Prlum Peterson's mother. A mother who, although had awful things happen to her, never lost her faith or her positive and forgiving attitude. If you don't like crying when you read, don't read this. Also a lot of this true memoir is set in Beaver Dam. So anyone reading the story here in SE Wisconsin can relate to the time and place that is Beaver Dam. I read it in two days, it was one that I couldn't put down. Relationships with mothers can be awfully complicated, and this one was. "The greatest sadness ...for any good mother would be to know her child was leading an unhappy life... And the greatest happiness for any mother is to know her children are happy and fulfilling their dreams. And maybe even fulfilling a few of their mother's dreams, too." Anne, Mary's mother. "I'm not sure who I am without my parents." Anne, after her father and then mother had died. Mary's comments on Anne in a social situation, about how we all try to be controlled and do what is expected of us. "And that night , she laughed a lot....I think it was something more--a willingness to let go, if only for a couple of hours." 'I realized...that far better than having any of those adventures I'd dreamed of having for myself, is getting to watch you living such an exciting life....I get to watch you being happy. At the end of the day, that's all any mother wants--for her children to be happy." Anne "Some people are just born with the kindness gene..." Anne "At the end of the day, the church I see isn't about cold people making mean rules and bad decisions. For me, it's about the other stuff. The good stuff." Anne

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    I always thought this book was about mothers, daughters, and their relationships, especially pertaining to weddings and wedding dresses. I needed something to listen to and this was available, so I (literally) checked it out. It wasn't about what I thought it would be about. It's a memoir of an average woman who went on to have a high-profile career, so she was able to get her memoir published, is what I take away from this book. As other reviewers have noted, she comes across as rather too prou I always thought this book was about mothers, daughters, and their relationships, especially pertaining to weddings and wedding dresses. I needed something to listen to and this was available, so I (literally) checked it out. It wasn't about what I thought it would be about. It's a memoir of an average woman who went on to have a high-profile career, so she was able to get her memoir published, is what I take away from this book. As other reviewers have noted, she comes across as rather too proud of herself and her achievements, and not in an endearing way. Her parents were a totally ill-fated mismatch from day one. To put it mildly. Oh my goodness. Was the Catholic church not doing any kind of premarital counseling back then? Hello, red flag, thy name is Dale. Major, major issues on both sides. Two negatives did not, in this case, make a positive. They should have run screaming in opposite directions away from each other instead of coming together and making a family. But darn it, once they committed, they sure did try...for a while anyway. I felt SO sorry for her mom. She waited so long to get married and start a family, and then she ended up with Dale. Nothing she could do was going to make that work. I wonder if she ever wished she had just stayed in the convent? I bet she did. I didn't love the book but it was interesting, and when I finished it I was curious to find out what I could about her since she finished the book five years ago. **Possible spoiler alert:** (though it isn't in the book): I was really sorry to see that things didn't end so well for her brother. Very sad. The one person who could really relate to all she had to deal with growing up is now no longer there. So, if you like memoirs, this is interesting, but it's not the best one out there. It made me appreciate my parents and my childhood/upbringing even more than I already did, so there was that.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shelley

    Enjoyable memoir of 3 generations of women. Grandmother Aurelia is a woman who seems not to love her daughter Anne. Anne Diener goes off to college and when the man she falls in love with does not return her love, she enters a convent. The convent is harsh and unforgiving and after a torturous year she leaves the convent and returns home. She quickly marries a man she meets in graduate school (as she is nearly 30) but immediately discovers that her husband is abusive. His abuse is based on him b Enjoyable memoir of 3 generations of women. Grandmother Aurelia is a woman who seems not to love her daughter Anne. Anne Diener goes off to college and when the man she falls in love with does not return her love, she enters a convent. The convent is harsh and unforgiving and after a torturous year she leaves the convent and returns home. She quickly marries a man she meets in graduate school (as she is nearly 30) but immediately discovers that her husband is abusive. His abuse is based on him being a closeted gay man. All of this information is to explain why she becomes a serious hoarder. This is not merely piles of newspapers and mail on the dining room table. This is old coffee cups, fast food bags, years of unopened mail, several feet of clothes on the floor of every room and the staircase. Bats and mice are all over and the hole in the roof makes easy access for the bats. Multiple TV's, rotary telephones, lamps that no longer work. Her mother was seriously mentally ill and yet she is able to maintain the VERY close relationship that she had always had with her mother. I found myself feeling that she was too close to her mother as an adult. She seemed to still need mommy in all sorts of situations - and she was so attached to those white dresses that her mother liked. Communion, wedding, graduation... all white. I wanted to tell the author to grow up - your mother is seriously mentally ill. But her mother was still able to transmit love to her daughter and even though she could not leave her horrible house, nor could her daughter ever be allowed in, they still had a working relationship. The message from this book is that you cannot do anything to help a hoarder - you just have to keep loving them. Don't know if I could handle that.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Jean

    Multi generational. Anne tries to please her dad. Is smart, active, but her love life fell apart sending her into the decision all is lost and she’s worth nothing. She enters a convent. The convent does a head job on her that all is indeed lost, that she is indeed totally worthless. It isn’t about religion. It’s about knocking all self thought out, about following rules without question, becoming good little soldiers. Hmm, isn’t that what nazis did? No thinking, just obey orders. Sorry, probably Multi generational. Anne tries to please her dad. Is smart, active, but her love life fell apart sending her into the decision all is lost and she’s worth nothing. She enters a convent. The convent does a head job on her that all is indeed lost, that she is indeed totally worthless. It isn’t about religion. It’s about knocking all self thought out, about following rules without question, becoming good little soldiers. Hmm, isn’t that what nazis did? No thinking, just obey orders. Sorry, probably bad comparison but I was surprised to hear this about a convent. A place of hope, not a place of no hope. Anyway, Anne quits the convent, goes into depression which she never truly gets out of, gets married to a man who finally comes out if the closet leaving her with 2 kids and nothing else. Mary, Anne’s daughter grows up her mom going in and out of mental hospital., a house in increasing hoarding condition and increasing chaos. Somehow she makes it thru. She makes college, she makes it big in journalism, she marries well, and has children. For some reason she attributes this to all the loving care she got from her mother. I don’t get it. I think it’s fine she doesn’t hate her but to praise her for all she learned from her doesn’t seem right. Anne had mental illness. It should have been addressed, not just, “mom just doesn’t want to”. It was a good story but bothered me that all the characters seemed to be flailing about knowing things were wrong but doing nothing about any of it.

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