Friday, November 4, 2011

Book Review: A Cluttered Life

One of Seal Press's latest titles, A Cluttered Life: Searching for God, Serenity and My Missing Keys, gives us Pesi Dinnerstein, a very very cluttered professor.

My puns aren't usually that bad. I apologize.

She has been struggling with clutter all her life and also searching for her spiritual journey along the way. She ends up having an ephiphany late December 1999 when she runs into an old acquaintance and this person begins to relive some of the more embarrassing clutter stories aloud. Dinnerstein vows to begin tackling the clutter and her seemingly stagnated quest for a relationship with God. Her friends, the Holy Sisters, mother, and husband join her in her journey, which has many unexpected twists and turns and most often, very poignant stops along the way.

Dinnerstein's memoir is one of the more readable books I've experienced in a long time. Too often, memoirs are bloated, trying to squeeze everything but the kitchen sink (again, my sincerest apologies) whereas Dinnerstein sticks to a very streamlined and linear approach to her story. And despite her academic background, the prose is very accessible but intelligent at the same time.

At over 300 pages, it's one to settle in with a favorite cup of tea and enjoy the author's very real attempts to tackle a subject that's currently plastered everywhere, with the show Hoarders becoming a cult phenomenon and evangelicals preaching from the tv pulpit. While there are no pictures present in the text, a vivid portrait is painted, enough that the reader can realize how much the writer needs the help she seeks.

The build up toward the climax is gradual and somewhat subtle, but still very enjoyable as the reader cheers for Dinnerstein to achieve her goals. I groaned with her throughout the various seemingly inevitable disasters that occur, including when she and her husband Yankel return from a vacation to find a leaky toilet has collapsed their dining room ceiling, but I also cheered her on when she realizes that sometimes the best pleasures in life are the simplest. A recommendation for anyone in your life, be they pack rat or church lover.

(Photo credit: Seal Press/I received a review copy of this book, but all opinions are my own.)

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