Summary: 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 savings shot, she had a choice: get a job or go home. 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, 10,000 miles from the house where she was raised, 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.
(Summary and image taken from amazon.com)
My Review: Here is a book not to listen to while running. As the author delves into her own relationship with her mother, she somehow managed to dredge up my own feelings for my mom, and as a mother myself. I found myself bawling and hyperventilating all at the same time. The running was exercising my body,but this book was giving my soul a workout.
When I picked up this book, I wasn't sure what I was going to get in to. Was it going to be a memoir mixed with fiction, where everyone receives a happy ending? What I found was the author's frank voice weaving a memory as bright and bold as the present, and expressive enough to make me believe I was the one having the adventure.
I was the husband who had just lost his wife. I was the daughter who was greiving for her mom and a little bit unsure if welcoming a new woman into her life was unfaithful. I was the little boy who only wanted to be hugged and loved, no matter what woman it was. I was the son from the first marriage who yearned to be recognized as his mother's son. And I was the girl, Kelly Coorigan, who didn't really want to be there at first, but over time realized that she needed this too.
The book takes place in sunny Australia, during the summer months. There is enough teasing interaction with the culture and environment that the Down Under doesn't feel so far away, that you are actually the one tending kids at the beach, or hiking through the outback, desperately out of shape.
But this isn't a book about exotic adventures one would experience physically, it is a book about adventures of the heart, and of understanding. Kelly starts out tending the Tanner children determined to not channel her mother's example. As time goes by though, it is her mother's voice in her head that gets her through the moments of dealing with heard-headed children and emotionaly distant adults. It is through these moments that Kelly begins to understand the sacrifices her own mother made in order to raise a family. And to do it well.
As I followed Kelly's experience, I saw my own relationship with my mother and children on display. It was heart-wrenching and emotional. And it was a chance to reassess how I treat those I love best.
In summary, this is not a memoir mixed with fiction. There are no neat endings. I didn't discover that somehow, magically, everyone ended up walking off into the sunset, the way we wish all of our characters would. But I became comfortable with the fact that our lives are made up of people and moments, and it is how we treat those people and moments that determine who we become.
If anyone asks me if I've read any good books lately, this will be the first book on my list. Every mother and daughter should read this and save themselves years of troubled relationships in advance.
My Rating: 4 stars