Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Blog Tour: White Dresses by Mary Pflum Peterson

Author: Mary Pflum Peterson
Publisher: William Morrow
Date of publication: September 15, 2015

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.

I will admit that I almost didn't finish this book.  The start was very slow and I wasn't sure where the book was headed.   At first, I was convinced the book was just trying to justify a person's bad behavior because of their background.  But, in the end, I am so glad I stuck with the book.  White Dresses is definitely a labor of love.  I can tell that this was a very difficult book for Ms. Peterson to write.  I am very glad that she shared her story with the world.

The memoir traces through her mother Anne's  life as she grows up in a strict household filled 
with  rules and a lack of nurturing, to her heartbreak and depression in college, her abusive time in a convent then subsequent abusive and loveless marriage, and finally through her decent into the horrible world of hoarding.  Through this view into her mother's life, Ms. Peterson was trying to find out the answer to why her mother let herself be consumed by her house and her stuff.  

This book was a wonderful tribute to the author's mother.  Yes, she is brutally honest about the things that her mother goes through throughout her life.  But, she does it in a loving and respectful way.  Despite everything, Anne was a caring, loving and forgiving person.  That is evident through the amount of people that attended her wake. With all of the kind words, you would never know she hid such a horrible secret at home.   Each chapter opens with a white dress that sparks off a new occasion.  For Anne, white dresses were a sign of a new beginning filled with possibilities.  

I highly recommend this book.  I commend and thank Mary Pflum Peterson for sharing her mother with us.  I know her mother would be proud of her today!

About Mary Pflum Peterson

Mary Pflum Peterson is a veteran multi-Emmy-Award winning producer at Good Morning America, the nation’s number one morning news show. Her work at GMA has taken her to papal funerals in Rome, 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. Prior to joining GMA, Pflum Peterson was a producer and reporter for CNN, where, from her post in Istanbul, she traveled in and out of numerous warz ones, including Afghanistan. Today, her war zone of choice is Manhattan’s Upper West Side where she resides with her husband, Dean, and their four young children, ages 1 to 7.

Purchase Links

Mary’s Tour Stops

Tuesday, August 18th: bookchickdi
Wednesday, August 19th: 5 Minutes For Books
Thursday, August 20th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Friday, August 21st: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Monday, August 24th: Novel Escapes
Tuesday, August 25th: From the TBR Pile
Wednesday, August 26th: BookNAround
Friday, August 28th: Kritters Ramblings
Wednesday, September 2nd: Raven Haired Girl
Thursday, September 3rd: Thoughts on This ‘n That

1 comment:

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

I'm so glad that you stuck with this one - her story is so very touching and I'm pleased to see that you can recommend it so highly.

Thanks for being a part of the tour!