The Middle Place

The Middle Place

4.3 126
by Kelly Corrigan
     
 

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For Kelly Corrigan, family is everything. At thirty-six, she had a marriage that worked, two funny, active kids, and a weekly newspaper column. But even as a thriving adult, Kelly still saw herself as the daughter of garrulous Irish-American charmer George Corrigan. She was living deep within what she calls the Middle Place—"that sliver of time when parenthood

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Overview

For Kelly Corrigan, family is everything. At thirty-six, she had a marriage that worked, two funny, active kids, and a weekly newspaper column. But even as a thriving adult, Kelly still saw herself as the daughter of garrulous Irish-American charmer George Corrigan. She was living deep within what she calls the Middle Place—"that sliver of time when parenthood and childhood overlap"—comfortably wedged between her adult duties and her parents' care. But Kelly is abruptly shoved into coming-of-age when she finds a lump in her breast—and gets the diagnosis no one wants to hear. When George, too, learns that he has late-stage cancer, it is Kelly's turn to take care of the man who had always taken care of her—and to show us a woman who finally takes the leap and grows up.

Editorial Reviews

Darin Strauss
"An amazing story told with steep honesty, buckets of humor and, above all, integrity. The Middle Place is memoir at its highest form."
From the Publisher
"An amazing story told with steep honesty, buckets of humor and, above all, integrity. The Middle Place is memoir at its highest form."—Darin Strauss, author of The Real McCoy and Chang and Eng"

If you're in a book club or just love to read, make sure this book ends up in your lap, where it will remain until you finish. Plan to laugh, cry, and be consumed by Kelly Corrigan."—Winston-Salem Journal"

Bravely reveals the frightened daughter inside the grown-up wife and mother."—Elle"

Come for the writing, stay for the drama. Or vice-versa. Either way, you won't regret it."—San Francisco Chronicle

Winston-Salem Journal
"If you're in a book club or just love to read, make sure this book ends up in your lap, where it will remain until you finish. Plan to laugh, cry, and be consumed by Kelly Corrigan."
Elle
"Bravely reveals the frightened daughter inside the grown-up wife and mother."
San Francisco Chronicle
"Come for the writing, stay for the drama. Or vice-versa. Either way, you won't regret it."
Publishers Weekly

Newspaper columnist Corrigan was a happily married mother of two young daughters when she discovered a cancerous lump in her breast. She was still undergoing treatment when she learned that her beloved father, who'd already survived prostate cancer, now had bladder cancer. Corrigan's story could have been unbearably depressing had she not made it clear from the start that she came from sturdy stock. Growing up, she loved hearing her father boom out his morning "HELLO WORLD" dialogue with the universe, so his kids would feel like the world wasn't just a "safe place" but was "even rooting for you." As Corrigan reports on her cancer treatment-the chemo, the surgery, the radiation-she weaves in the story of how it felt growing up in a big, suburban Philadelphia family with her larger-than-life father and her steady-loving mother and brothers. She tells how she met her husband, how she gave birth to her daughters. All these stories lead up to where she is now, in that "middle place," being someone's child, but also having children of her own. Those learning to accept their own adulthood might find strength-and humor-in Corrigan's feisty memoir. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Library Journal

This is Corrigan's heart-wrenching and humorous memoir of her struggle with breast cancer. The chapters alternate between detailed descriptions of her chemo and radiation treatments and her happy childhood growing up in a large, loving Irish family. The text is well written and poignantly read by Tavia Gilbert, whose narration brings out the personalities and feelings of the main characters: Corrigan's ebullient father, her worried mother, her loving husband, and her supportive brothers. Corrigan writes magazine articles (her most recent appears in the April 2008 issue of Glamour magazine) and a newspaper column. Highly recommended for self-help and health collections in public libraries.
—Ilka Gordon

School Library Journal

Newspaper columnist Corrigan was a happily married mother of two young daughters when she discovered a cancerous lump in her breast. She was still undergoing treatment when she learned that her beloved father, who'd already survived prostate cancer, now had bladder cancer. Corrigan's story could have been unbearably depressing had she not made it clear from the start that she came from sturdy stock. Growing up, she loved hearing her father boom out his morning "HELLO WORLD" dialogue with the universe, so his kids would feel like the world wasn't just a "safe place" but was "even rooting for you." As Corrigan reports on her cancer treatment-the chemo, the surgery, the radiation-she weaves in the story of how it felt growing up in a big, suburban Philadelphia family with her larger-than-life father and her steady-loving mother and brothers. She tells how she met her husband, how she gave birth to her daughters. All these stories lead up to where she is now, in that "middle place," being someone's child, but also having children of her own. Those learning to accept their own adulthood might find strength-and humor-in Corrigan's feisty memoir. (Jan.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
A cancer survivor's memoir with a welcome twist: a laughter-filled celebration of family. Newspaper columnist Corrigan was 36 when she discovered a lump in her left breast. Happily married and the mother of two young daughters, she was also still very much the adoring daughter of demonstrative, exuberant George Corrigan. Being upbeat and funny was de rigueur with her optimistic father, so the author's reaction to her breast-cancer diagnosis was to send an e-mail to about 100 people inviting them to a party one year hence to celebrate her recovery. But when George was diagnosed with bladder cancer and seemed too casual about his treatment, she became exasperated. Living in the Bay Area, she hounded his East Coast doctors by e-mail and took over the central role of information gatherer and advice dispenser. Only her own upcoming surgery kept her from heading to Philadelphia to take charge. At the same time that she was coping with her own cancer and trying to micromanage her father's, she was busy mothering two little girls too young to understand what was happening. Tender scenes with her daughters and some frustrating ones with her strong-willed mother give context to Corrigan's account of two battles against cancer. She also tosses into the mix funny, often self-deprecating tales of growing up in a boisterous Irish Catholic family, her adventures abroad in her 20s and her marriage to the comparatively subdued Edward. The author is, in her words, living in "the middle place-that sliver of time when childhood and parenthood overlap." Attachments to both the family she grew up in and the family she created remain strong, but as her husband reminds her, their daughters, not her parents, arethe future. Warm, funny and a touch bittersweet.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781401340933
Publisher:
Hyperion
Publication date:
12/23/2008
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
147,273
Product dimensions:
5.12(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.75(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Read an Excerpt

THE MIDDLE PLACE


By KELLY CORRIGAN Hyperion Copyright © 2008 KELLY CORRIGAN
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4013-0336-5


Chapter One The thing you need to know about me is that I am George Corrigan's daughter, his only daughter. You may have met him, in which case just skip this part. If you haven't, I'll do what I can to describe him, but really, you should try to meet him.

He's Catholic. That's the first thing he'd want you to know about him. Goes to church many times a week. Calls it "God's House" and talks about it in loyal, familiar terms, the way the Irish talk about their corner pub. It's his local. When he was seventy, he became a eucharistic minister, so he helps Father Rich hand out the host a couple times a week. Sometimes, a parishioner named Lynnie looks at him with a certain peace in her eyes, and when my dad tells me about it, he gets misty.

You also need to know about the lacrosse thing. He's in the Hall of Fame, partly because he was an all-American in 1953 and 1954 but mostly because now, in his retirement, he marches up and down the field of my old high school, Radnor, side by side with a guy thirty years his junior, coaching the kids who want to be lacrosse stars. I've watched a hundred games sitting next to him; both my brothers played for years. Not being an athlete myself, I am amused by how attached he is to the game. He remembers every play and can talk about a single game for hours. The words don't mean much to me, but the emotion needs no translation.

And he's a Corrigan. He was one of six loud, funny kids who broke out of a tiny house on Clearspring Road in working-class Baltimore. All athletes, except Peggy, who was a beauty, and Mary, who was a comic. The others, the four boys, played ice hockey in the winter and lacrosse in the spring. The house had three bedrooms-one for the parents, one for the girls, and one for the boys. There was a single bathroom where they bathed, one kid after another, in an old tub of lukewarm water once, maybe twice, a week. My uncle Gene, who made a career out of college athletics, often jokes that the real appeal of sports were the hot showers and new clothes once a season.

And I guess it helps to know that my dad was a sales guy. He sold ad space in women's magazines for fifty years, before there were sales training programs, Excel spreadsheets, and cell phones. He just settled into the front seat of the Buick with a mug of Sanka in his hand, a map on the passenger seat, and a list of his accounts in his head. He kept a box of fresh magazines in his trunk at all times, always prepared to turn a casual acquaintance into a new account. He'd call in to the office from pay phones along I-95 to tell his secretary, the nearly bionic Jenny Austin, how many pages Noxzema signed up for or ask her to send the Folger's people a mock-up of next month's magazine or see if the guy from Stainmaster Carpets called back yet. People loved him.

Toward the end of his career, he changed jobs and got a new boss, a well-trained MBA who favored e-mail and databases. My dad didn't type. He didn't show up for weekly meetings. He couldn't tell you the address of his buddy at Cover Girl and didn't know exactly how to spell his last name. But some months, he sold a quarter of the ad pages in the issue, so who could complain? Despite his billings, he frustrated this particular boss every day for five years, until finally, at sixty-nine, he retired, writing "Bye Gang!" in the dust on his computer screen.

So there are a few people out there who don't like George Corrigan. That boss is one. I think another might be Bill, his neighbor. Bill yells at his kids, really berates them. Weekends, holidays, snow days, it doesn't matter. I think my dad finds this unforgivable. Or maybe it's that Bill is unamused by my dad. He may even think my dad is nothing but a joker, what with that huge easy chortle of his that floats over to Bill's backyard in the summer when we're out on the deck having a Bud Light.

But the neighbor and his last boss are really the only two people I can think of offhand who don't like my dad. So for thirty-some years, I have been stopped at the gas station, the farmers' market, the swim club, to hear something like: "You're George Corrigan's daughter? What a guy. What a wonderful guy."

I think people like him because his default setting is open delight. He's prepared to be wowed-by your humor, your smarts, your white smile, even your handshake-guaranteed, something you do is going to thrill him. Something is going to make him shake his head afterward, in disbelief, and say to me, "Lovey, what a guy!" or "Lovey, isn't she terrific?" People walk away from him feeling like they're on their game, even if they suspect that he put them there.

He does that for me too. He makes me feel smart, funny, and beautiful, which has become the job of the few men who have loved me since. He told me once that I was a great talker. And so I was. I was a conversationalist, along with creative, a notion he put in my head when I was in grade school and used to make huge, intricate collages from his old magazines. He defined me first, as parents do. Those early characterizations can become the shimmering self-image we embrace or the limited, stifling perception we rail against for a lifetime. In my case, he sees me as I would like to be seen. In fact, I'm not even sure what's true about me, since I have always chosen to believe his version.

I could have gone either way. As I said, I was not an athlete, and just an average student. I was a party girl who smoked cigarettes, a vain girl who spent long stretches in front of the mirror, cutting my own hair, as necessary, before parties. More than once, I stole lipstick or eye shadow from the pharmacy. I used my mom's Final Net Ultra Hold Hair Mist without permission and to outrageous effect. I was suspended from high school for a week as a sophomore for being drunk at a semiformal. I had fallen down the staircase, baby's breath in my hair, new suntan panty hose ripped up the back. A wreck of white polyester.

My dad came to pick me up. As I recall, he was unruffled. It would've been ludicrous for him to say something like "I am very disappointed." He wasn't disappointed, or even surprised. This kind of thing happens every so often with teenagers.

My mother, on the other hand, was truly beside herself. She had grown up in a strict German household, where behavior of this sort would have merited a month, maybe two, in the cellar. She had put in a lot of long hours making sure I was not the kind of girl who'd do something like this. I remember hearing my parents argue the morning after the dance.

"Mary, you can't ground her for a month. She's going to be so embarrassed at school, you won't have to punish her."

"You must be kidding me. Are you telling me you think it is okay for our fifteen-year-old daughter to get drunk at a school function?"

"Mary, come on." He laughed as he said it. "You think she was the only one there who had a few beers before the dance?"

"Absolutely not. I am sure that ninety percent of those kids had something to drink before the dance but Kelly fell down the stairs, George. She didn't have a few beers. She was drunk."

So what I heard my dad say is: she's fine, a normal kid. What I heard my mom say is: she's wild and getting wilder.

The truth was that I was wild but on my way to being fine.

About twenty years later, having become fine, I called my parents from the maternity ward and cried through the following: "Mom, Dad, it's a girl, and Dad, we named her after you. We named her Georgia."

Three years after that, almost to the day, I called home to tell my parents that I had cancer.

And that's what this whole thing is about. Calling home. Instinctively. Even when all the paperwork-a marriage license, a notarized deed, two birth certificates, and seven years of tax returns-clearly indicates you're an adult, but all the same, there you are, clutching the phone and thanking God that you're still somebody's daughter.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from THE MIDDLE PLACE by KELLY CORRIGAN Copyright © 2008 by KELLY CORRIGAN. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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What People are saying about this

Robb Forman Dew
I haven't become so immediately caught up in or so compelled by a book in ages . . . Kelly Corrigan's lightning-fast ability to establish that rare, mysterious bond between book and reader overwhelmed me. There are all sorts of things to be said about her bravery, and about what she can explain to many of us about illness, but this is a wonderful book about being alive. (Robb Forman Dew, author of The Truth of the Matter and The Time of Her Life)
Darin Strauss
An amazing story told with steep honesty, buckets of humor and, above all, integrity. The Middle Place is memoir at its highest form. (Darin Strauss, author of The Real McCoy and Chang and Eng)
Linda Greenlaw
Kelly Corrigan has a great sense of humor, an honest voice, and a brilliant way of telling it like it is -— but that’s just for starters. It’s her heart that really counts. The Middle Place is a love letter to family and home and life. (Linda Greenlaw, author of The Hungry Ocean and Slipknot)
Luanne Rice
The Middle Place is inspiring, luminous, and true. Reading this memoir, I felt like an honorary member of the Corrigan family - with all their love and support, the way they pull for each other through the hardest times, and keep each other laughing through it all. (Luanne Rice, author of What Matters Most)
Carolyn See
Kelly Corrigan takes what might have been a fairly standard story of survival, and reframed it, most charmingly, as a coming of age narrative. We see here a headstrong girl, under the most severe adversity, turn into a genuinely strong woman. (Carolyn See, author of Making a Literary Life)
Cynthia Kaplan
Kelly Corrigan's utterly absorbing memoir, The Middle Place, is wry, smart, and often heart wrenching. Corrigan takes us down memory lane and then, at the same time, down some other, darker road most of us hope never to travel. Yet we follow her all the way, quite willingly, I might add, thanks to her sharp eye for the details and her great sense of humor. (Cynthia Kaplan, author of Why I'm Like This and Leave the Building Quickly)
Jacquelyn Mitchard
The Middle Place is a memoir that reads like a novel and sings like an Irish tenor. When Kelly Corrigan writes, she makes you want to come home. (Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and Still Summer)
Ayelet Waldman
In the tradition of the best memoirists (Anne Lamott and Anna Quindlen come to mind) she captures our hearts and teaches us something new about family, love, and yes, even death. (Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits)

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