WHITE WALLS by Judy Batalion


A Memoir About Motherhood, Daughterhood, and the Mess In Between
Email this review


One woman's struggle to find her identity after growing up in a hoarder family.

From an early age, Batalion, a former comedian and art curator, knew there was something odd about her mother and the way she kept buying things and never throwing anything away. Yet, the moldering cans of tuna, the insect-infested flour, the piles of clothing, papers, telephones, fax machines, and every trinket imaginable felt like home, even if they threatened to overwhelm her. “When mom slept,” she writes, “the house could breathe. The walls exhaled, the roof slumped.” Ultimately, Batalion craved peace, order, and minimalism, things she could only begin to find when she finally left home and began her adult life. Told in often overwhelming detail, as if she's hoarding each event and word, the author traces her life story from early childhood, when she suffered from colitis, to her college years, when she experimented with various fashion styles and sex, to her unexpected rise to motherhood. She meanders through her family's Jewish heritage, bringing in memories of her Bubbie and of her mother's increasing paranoia and threats of suicide, juxtaposing them against her struggles to find herself amid her increasing obsessive-compulsive behaviors. The writing is dense, fraught with anxiety, and jumps back and forth in time, leaving readers with a bit of the bloat, as if there's too much information provided without a clear narrative line. Although Batalion tries to show how her connections to her grandmother, mother, and daughter have influenced her life, the circuitous route she takes leaves us wondering just what it is that she's trying to say. However, the descriptions of life in a hoarder home leave nothing to the imagination, making this a good read for those who may wonder if they have a hoarder in their midst.

A sinuous, overstuffed reflection on living with a hoarder.

Pub Date: Jan. 5th, 2016
ISBN: 978-0-451-47311-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: NAL
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15th, 2015


IndieIT NEVER ENDS by Nan Fink Gefen
by Nan Fink Gefen
NonfictionGHOSTY MEN by Franz Lidz
by Franz Lidz
NonfictionTHIS IS NOT MY BEAUTIFUL LIFE by Victoria Fedden
by Victoria Fedden