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I’m Irish. That must be where the luck comes from, the luck required to find a publisher after filling diaries and journals for thirty years, first in a gingham wonderland from Sears, then in a dorm room in Virginia, finally in a fixer-upper near Oakland, California.
My first book, The Middle Place, was about my father, Greenie, who was very sick at the same time that I was very sick. Next, in 2010, I tried to capture what it has been to my daughters’ mother in Lift. Finally, with Glitter and Glue, my mother gets her due. Now, Mary Corrigan is a complicated topic, as most mothers are. Think stoic, gritty, unbending; one part saint, two parts sergeant. Or, as she put it, “Your father’s the glitter, but I’m the glue. It takes both, Kelly.”
I hope that somehow, given the toppling pile of books on your nightstand, you can find an evening to spare for this story of how I came to wonder who my mom was before I arrived, what motherhood had done to her and who she had become since I left home. Parenthood is so distorting; we all deserve a second, longer look.
When mother of two Corrigan struggles with cancer, she remembers a mother she never met more than 20 years earlier in 1992 in Australia. Back then, seeking money to enhance the next leg of her round-the-world travels, Corrigan became the nanny for a widower, John, whose family—five-year-old Martin and seven-year-old Milly as well as a garage-living stepson and an in-law-apartment-living father-in-law—had just lost their matriarch to cancer. Though it’s a true story, Corrigan has changed the names and some of the details to disguise identities. Here, the memories of her work as companion, surrogate mom, and onetime lover to various family members are filtered through Corrigan’s experiences, good and bad, of herself as mother and herself as daughter (her mom’s admonitions and pronouncements, served up in italics, support the young nanny as well as the text, then and now). The flavor of what a youthful, journal-writing Corrigan probably once hoped this book would be—a spectacle of travel and awesome experience—comes through in the writing but doesn’t disturb this touching, hard-won paean to mothering and parenting, living and losing. --Eloise Kinney
Kelly Corrigan is, more than anything else, the mother of two young girls. While they're at school, Kelly writes a newspaper column, the occasional magazine article, and possible chapters of a novel. She is also the creator of CircusOfCancer.org, a website to teach people how to help a friend through breast cancer. Kelly lives outside San Francisco with her husband, Edward Lichty.
I was swept through this sweet, sincere memoir in one sitting. While this was definitely well written and heartfelt, I couldn't help feeling like something (or a few somethings) was missing when I closed the cover. Corrigan finds herself analyzing her relationship with her mother as she interacts with the motherless children she has been employed to nanny. Though she has children of her own, we never get to hear how her experience with this family and with her mother has effected her relationship and/or parenting techniques with her own children. I felt like Corrigan couldn't decide if she wanted to write about her relationship with her mother as a child or her relationship with her mother as she went through cancer treatment. As a result, we never get a satisfying amount of information or reflection on either. Overall, I thought the book was a wonderfully nice read, but unfulfilling none the less.
Kelly Corrigan is a new author for me, but I will be seeking out her other works, as I was very impressed with "Glitter and Glue." This memoir was nothing like I was expecting from what I understood of the book when it picked it up -- I thought it was going to be a typical memoir of the author's childhood, with many stories of the differences between the author's mother and father. Corrigan's father is the "glitter" of the family and the title, but he hardly appears at all in the book -- he is the perpetual cheerleader for his daughter, always supportive and never critical. Corrgian's mother, on the other hand, described herself as the "glue" of the family, the practical, and generally critical, mother who rarely seemed to support any plan or scheme of her daughter.
But, the book is not much as I thought it would be -- rather the contrast of the mother and father are explored primarily in Corrigan's story of her 1992 summer in Australia when she was a young nanny to a family whose wife and mother had recently died of cancer. Corrigan had always assumed that when she married and had children she would be their glitter, and instead she found herself in a complex situation where there were no easy answers. The Australian family consisted of the father (older and an airline pilot), two young children (the names are not the same as the real life family), the father's stepson,and his father-in-law. In attempting to bond with the children, Corrigan finds that it was not simply a matter of indulging youngsters who missed their mother -- in fact there is very little discussion between Corrigan and the children about the mother related in the book, as most of that information comes from Evan, the stepson.Read more ›
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I cannot tell you how much I'm enjoying Kelly Corrigan's latest. Oh my, I find myself cackling and weeping out loud. This girl can flat out write! I think this newest book easily outdoes, "The Middle Place," and I didn't think that was possible. Corrigan re-creates a scene expertly and interweaves dialogue so true, you feel like you were there. The one question I keep asking myself: "Oh, I wonder if her mom is mad she wrote that?"
Corrigan has an uncanny ability to show a family's variegated dark and light sides while making you love them all the more. During her youth Corrigan struggles in the relationship with her mom who is old school, stoic, Catholic, stern, and appears to be no fun, while her dad seems to be the best. But after nannying a family in Australia, she learns how great it is to nurture---and how hard!---and she realizes her mom had to be the heavy so that her dad could be the fun one.
I resonate with the forlorn Australian family who loses it's mother. That was my family. My mom was very sick all the years I can remember, and she died three days before my high school graduation. I found myself wanting Corrigan to piece us back together, and I think she sort of did that (at least for me) in the writing of this book.
The author, young, fresh from college, looking for an adventure, shows up, out of money, and finds herself in this awkward family. You can see how her "normalcy" and her ability to nurture, brings healing to all of them. And the family heals Corrigan by giving her an insight of how much she wants to love and nurture others.
I can't imagine anyone not loving this book.
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Glitter and Glue hit the bestseller list with a splash, which made me curious to read this memoir and learn who Kelly Corrigan is. The book is breezy and warmhearted, but I found it slight. First, it was literally slight—you can whiz through it in a few sitting. That’s not an issue. But I found it be thin in execution. Only while nanny-ing in Australia for a family with a recently deceased mother does Corrigan begin to appreciate her own no-nonsense mother back in Philadelphia. For those of us who in our lifetimes have found our moms to be in some way lacking, this is a fine message, but I wish there were more to the book—more wisdom, anecdotes of a more compelling nature, more depth.
For me, the book ended too soon, because the last chapter, when Corrigan reflects on what kind of mother she has become—one much like her own Mom—was the best one in the book. I was a bit bored by her Australian escapes. Grown-up Kelly seems far more interesting than Young Girl Kelly.
Also, I hate to be witchy, but during her rather long stay with the Australian family (a few months) Corrigan makes many references and draws comparisons to Willa Cather’s novel, My Antonia, that she found on the family’s bookshelf and started to read. She never, however, seems to finish the book. Did she read, say, one paragraph a day? Peculiar.
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