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.
I have always had a fantastic relationship with my mother. She’s always been my best friend, the one I confide my fears in, my idea bouncer, and my advice giver. I know for some women, that’s not always the case. I have friends who have very tenuous relationships with their mothers and I feel bad that they don’t have the same relationship that I was blessed to have.
And sometimes, that appreciation of who your mother is and what she has done for you does not come until you’re older and have children of your own. Such was the case with Kelly Corrigan.
I loved the way Kelly wrote. With her mother’s euphemisms sprinkled liberally throughout the book (in italics so there was no mistake who these words of wisdom came from) I felt like I was sitting in the Corrigan’s Philadelphia kitchen listening to her mother utter them herself. Sayings I could reach back in time and hear my own mom speak.
It was interesting to watch Kelly journey around the world to finally discover herself right there at home. Relatable for daughters and mothers alike, you’ll be nodding your head throughout this memoir.