Friday, November 22, 2013

Glitter and Glue

Glitter and Glue: A Memoir
Kelly Corrigan
3.5 / 5

To Be Published 2014

First Sentence
"Growing up, my mom was guided by the strong belief that to befriend me was to deny me the one thing a kid really needed in order to survive childhood: a mother."
Publisher's Description:

From the New York Times bestselling author of The Middle Place comes a new memoir that examines the bond—sometimes nourishing, sometimes exasperating, occasionally divine—between mothers and daughters.

When Kelly Corrigan was in high school, her mother neatly summarized the family dynamic as “Your father’s the glitter but I’m the glue.” This meant nothing to Kelly, who left childhood sure that her mom—with her inviolable commandments and proud stoicism—would be nothing more than background chatter for the rest of Kelly’s life, which she was carefully orienting toward adventure. After college, armed with a backpack, her personal mission statement, and a wad of traveler’s checks, she took off for Australia to see things and do things and Become Interesting.

But it didn’t turn out the way she pictured it. In a matter of months, her fanny pack full of savings had dwindled and she realized she needed a job. That’s how Kelly met John Tanner, a newly widowed father of two looking for a live-in nanny. They chatted for an hour, discussed timing and pay, and a week later, Kelly moved in. And there, in that house in a suburb north of Sydney, her mother’s voice was suddenly everywhere, nudging and advising, cautioning and directing, escorting her through a terrain as foreign as any she had ever trekked. Every day she spent with the Tanner kids was a day spent reconsidering her relationship with her mother, turning it over in her hands like a shell, straining to hear whatever messages might be trapped in its spiral.

This is a book about the difference between travel and life experience, stepping out and stepping up, fathers and mothers. But mostly it’s about who you admire and why, and how that changes over time.
Dear Reader,

I read this book in 3 days.  I suppose that says something about both its accessibility and its engagement level.  This book was, however, nothing like I'd expected.  Having never read anything by this author before, I wasn't prepared by her other works.  Amber and I got this book as an ARC at BEA 2013, and we'd both been eager to get to it, especially having met the author and gotten our books signed.  I think the title appealed to me most of all: it evoked memories of crafting - making paper crowns and wands with which to become a princess - with my own mother when I was little.

So, I guess in one way, I was (completely unexpectedly) prepared for this book: it was ultimately about the relationship between a mother and daughter, reflected upon by a daughter who has reached womanhood and her own motherhood, and therefore is trying to sort out her complicated and often frustrating relationship with her mom.  I think Kelly and her mother had an especially interesting relationship because Kelly was the only daughter in the family; having a sister to talk to and relate to might have helped her immensely during her adolesence.

They definitely did have an often-at-odds relationship, which I found fascinating to watch unfold throughout the book.  But, in the long run, I wasn't quite sure this book "gave" me anything.  There wasn't much of a resolution to the whole thing, besides that Kelly had come to the realization that she did, in fact, really need her mother.

It was interesting the way the author explained her coming to terms with this through the story of her experiences in Australia over a three-month period, when she was in her early twenties.   She nannied for a recent widower's children, and while they came to understand and manage life without their mother, Kelly simultaneously began to understand the connection she and her mother had.  While essentially child-rearing for the first time, she began to watch herself adopt many of her own mother's mannerisms.

I feel like maybe if I'd read a few others of Corrigan's memoirs, perhaps I would have felt as if this were a more complete story, one that fit in neatly with her other works to form a whole portrait of a person.  As it stood alone, though, I didn't feel like it was ... quite substantial enough.  I enjoyed the narrative, but in the end felt as if I'd just finished an article reflecting in detail on one part of one woman's life, not an entire book.  That's not a bad thing, though - just an observation.

I'd recommend this to women who struggle with the mother-daugther relationship, either with their mothers or their daugthers.  I think it was a heartwarming and entertaining book, which hit upon some good moments and did draw some great parallels between the author's situation in Australia and her situation at home.  Certainly a fun and light-hearted little read.  (Especially the relationship with her father; that was always adorable to watch.)


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