The Cost of Living by M.L. Pressman

Caroline Kurchowski’s story starts when she is eight and moves with her mom into their new home in Long Island.  Caroline (C.C.) knows that her mom loves her, but she is horrified to find out that her mom isn’t always right and definitely isn’t a normal mom.  Mom lives by the motto: if it’s free, it’s for me.  Jean Kurchowski is a compulsive hoarder, a woman who lives for a sale and will drive halfway across the country for a deal (even though tolls and gas run her what she would have saved, or more).

This is fiction that reads like a memoir.  I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn’t true; I wasn’t reading journal entries mixed with memories.  It felt so real.  Each chapter is short, only five to fifteen pages, chronicling another mishap/adventure in C.C.’s life.  I loved the incident of the prom dress, purchased from a woman who makes “creations” including the disintegrating disaster forced on C.C. and the potluck Thanksgiving dinner where cheap Jean figured someone would have been thoughtful enough to bring a turkey, not realizing that it is really up to the hostess.  (The Thanksgiving story becomes a plumbing story that is quite funny.)

It’s a compulsive read.  I couldn’t put it down because I wanted to see what strange, horrible, wonderful thing happened next.  While you have trouble understanding Jean, you eventually get where she’s coming from, and she has heart so you do like her despite herself.