The Life of Stuff
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Shortlisted for the James Tait Black biography prize 2019
‘This extraordinary, beautiful memoir gripped me from the first page.’ Clover Stroud, author of The Wild Other
What do our possessions say about us? Why do we project such meaning onto them?
Only after her mother’s death does Susannah Walker discover how much of a hoarder she had become. Over the following months, she has to sort through a dilapidated house filled to the brim with rubbish and treasures, in search of a woman she’d never really known or understood in life. This is her last chance to piece together her mother’s story and make sense of their troubled relationship. What emerges from the mess of scattered papers, discarded photographs and an extraordinary amount of stuff is the history of a sad and fractured family, haunted by dead children, divorce and alcohol.
The Life of Stuff is a deeply personal exploration of mourning and the shoring up of possessions against the losses and griefs of life, which also raises universal questions about what makes us the people we are.
"I found Susannah's book absolutely fascinating. She writes with admirable honesty and the result is a compelling and moving account of her mother's life and relationships as told by the apocalyptic accumulation of "stuff" she left behind. Susannah's book is not only a brave testament to an imperfect but precious relationship, but also a reflection on the similarities, however uncomfortable, between mother and daughter. It is a book I know I shall read again." * Ruth Hogan, author of THE KEEPER OF LOST THINGS * "This extraordinary, beautiful memoir gripped me from the first page. Susannah Walker writes especially well on home and motherhood, yet never resorts to cliche or sentimentality. I loved this book and it moved me profoundly, whilst also making me look at my own life - and the stuff I carry with me - with a new eye. The mess of her mother's life might frame this book, but Walker is really concerned with human relationships, and in her writing addresses big questions about what it means to be both a mother and a daughter, the power of memory and the devastating loss all of us feel with the passing of time." * Clover Stroud, author of THE WILD OTHER * "With her bold prose and ceaseless courage, Susannah Walker tells a mother-daughter story like no other... This is the most articulate and practical guide to understanding hoarding I have come across. It is also incredibly refreshing to finally read something from the perspective of the child of a hoarder. It is a must-read if you have a parent with a serious hoarding disorder or even if you just suspect hoarding tendencies. I really couldn't put this book down." * Stelios Kiosses, Psychotherapist and Presenter of Channel 4's The Hoarder Next Door *
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