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White Dresses
Cover of White Dresses
White Dresses
A Memoir of Love and Secrets, 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...
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...
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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 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.

About the Author-

  • Mary Pflum Peterson is a veteran multi-Emmy-Award winning producer at Good Morning America. Her work has taken her to the ravaged remains of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, to the royal wedding in London and to numerous Oscar ceremonies in between. Pflum Peterson was also a producer and reporter for CNN, where, from her post in Istanbul, she traveled in and out of numerous warzones. She lives in Manhattan with her husband, Dean, and their four young children.

Reviews-

  • Kirkus

    July 15, 2015
    In a debut memoir, a former CNN reporter and current Emmy Award-winning Good Morning America producer recounts her family's painful history. Before Peterson was 10, both her parents had suffered mental breakdowns; her father, after two suicide attempts, finally confessed to his wife that he was gay. After the couple divorced, her mother plummeted into severe depression. For months, she was hospitalized, while her daughter expressed her own pain by reverting to bed-wetting. When her mother returned home, although as warm and loving as she always had been, her spirit seemed broken. Her weight ballooned, she no longer cared about her physical appearance, and, most alarming, she let the house become overrun with debris: newspapers, unopened mail, dirty dishes and clothing, dust and grime. When appliances broke, she failed to get them fixed. The kitchen, Peterson recalls, "began to take on the feel of a used appliance museum." For college, Peterson left her Wisconsin home for Manhattan and then moved to Atlanta, Germany, and Turkey on posts for CNN. Each time she returned, however, she saw her mother increasingly overwhelmed with trash, refusing Peterson's offer to help, to hire cleaners, or to find another place to live. Even her car was stuffed with garbage, and the house became infested with mice, chipmunks, bats, and insects. For years, the toilets did not work, causing an acrid stench. As the author's career took off and as she married and had children, her mother deteriorated, barring everyone from the house and denying that she was a hoarder. Peterson reminded her of their shared love of white dresses, "a way of starting over...a way of wiping the whole slate clean." But her mother was incapable of renewal, and she died trapped by depression, loneliness, and chaos. Peterson's generous homage to her mother offers an empathetic look at a baffling, frustrating mental illness. A candid, moving memoir about the many complexities of family.

    COPYRIGHT(2015) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • -Dorothea Benton Frank, New York Times bestselling author of All the Single Ladies "This stunning memoir takes us inside the secret lives of nuns, and teaches of the unbreakable bond between mothers and daughters. Mary Pflum Peterson rises as a new, bright shining star in the literary world. Her prose is as elegant as the white dresses about which she so lovingly writes."
  • Kirkus Reviews "A candid, moving memoir about the many complexities of family"
  • Martha McPhee "Mary Pflum Peterson unveils the beautiful camouflage of significant white dresses to look at the disappointments of a life, releasing secrets and pain that she ultimately transforms to love."
  • —Regina Calcaterra, New York Times bestselling author of Etched in Sand "A brave and courageous page-turning memoir."

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A Memoir of Love and Secrets, Mothers and Daughters
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