NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A memoir from the author of The Middle Place about mothers and daughters—a bond that can be nourishing, exasperating, and occasionally divine.
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.
Praise for Glitter and Glue
“I loved this book, I was moved by this book, and now I will share this book with my own mother—along with my renewed appreciation for certain debts of love that can never be repaid.”—Elizabeth Gilbert, New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Love
“Kelly Corrigan’s thoughtful and beautifully rendered meditation invites readers to reflect on their own launchings and homecomings. I accepted the invitation and learned things about myself. You will, too. Isn’t that why we read?”—Wally Lamb, New York Times bestselling author of We Are Water
“Kelly Corrigan is no stranger to mining the depths of her heart. . . . Through her own experience of caring for children, she begins, for the first time, to appreciate the complex woman who raised her.”—O: The Oprah Magazine
|Publisher:||Random House Publishing Group|
|Product dimensions:||5.60(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)|
About the Author
Kelly Corrigan is the author of The Middle Place and Lift, both New York Times bestsellers. She is also a contributor to O: The Oprah Magazine, Good Housekeeping, and Medium. Kelly co-founded Notes & Words, an annual benefit concert for Children’s Hospital Oakland featuring writers and musicians onstage together. Her YouTube channel, which includes video essays like “Transcending” and interviews with writers like Michael Lewis and Anna Quindlen, has been viewed by millions. She lives in the Bay Area with her husband, Edward Lichty, their two daughters, and a poorly behaved chocolate Lab, Hershey.
Read an Excerpt
I shouldn’t be here. That’s what I’m realizing as I follow John Tanner down the hall of his house in suburban Australia. After the interview, I should’ve called back and said it wasn’t going to work. But I had no choice. I needed money, or I’d be back on my mother’s doorstep within a month, and wouldn’t that please her to no end?
It’s her fault. That’s another thought I’m having as I set down my backpack on a single bed in a room with a skylight but no windows, and John Tanner says, “I hope this will be okay.” If she had given me even a little money . . . a loan . . .
This is not what I left home for. That’s the chalky horse pill I choke down when John Tanner says the kids are so excited about me moving in, they’ll be in here bouncing on my bed in no time. “First nanny and all,” he says.
I’m a nanny, a fucking nanny.
For the record, I didn’t touch down in Oz, open The Sydney Morning Herald, and circle “Recent Widower Looking for Live-in Nanny.” If anything, I was thinking bartending, or at least waitressing. Good money, tons of laughs, guys everywhere.
My college roommate Tracy and I had been traveling for two months, burning through cash, so when we got off the bus in downtown Sydney, we filled out applications at all the restaurants and bars that sounded Yank-friendly: Uncle Sam’s, Texas Rib Joint, New York Steak House. We followed up, we waited. Seven days in, we broadened the search—surf shacks, burger joints, cafés, pubs. Nobody would hire us. We called friends of friends and left messages asking if they knew of any temp work. No one called us back. We tried all the bulletins posted at the hostels. No one would bend the rules to let us work under the table. So after three weeks, we did what no self-respecting globe-trotter would: We looked in the help-wanted ads for nanny gigs, all of which were in the ‘burbs, where we would meet zero boys and have zero big experiences and learn nothing about anything.
I picked a rich family with an indoor pool and views of the Sydney Opera House, but Eugenia Brown turned out to be a total despot, and after I made a funny face about scrubbing her pool tiles and dragged my heels about helping with a mailing regarding her availability as a bridge tutor, I pointed out that her ad had said nanny, not nanny plus housecleaner plus personal assistant, at which point she said I was her first American—she usually hired Asians, who had “worked out so nicely”—and that I might be too “unionized.” Then she fired me.
After that, I interviewed with four more families. I told Smiley Vicki in Chatswood that I was open to babysitting on weekend nights, which would suck, and Skinny Jane on Cove Lane that I knew CPR. Didn’t matter. No one wanted a nanny who could only stay for five months, so I went back to the newspaper, and the widower’s ad was still there.
John Tanner was older than I thought a man with a seven-year-old and a five-year-old would be. His mustache was graying, and his hairline had rolled back a touch from where it started. His shoulders were sloped, giving him the outline of my grandmother’s Frigidaire. All in all, he struck me as someone who might participate in Civil War reenactments.
In a conversation that lasted under an hour, he explained that he was a steward for Qantas and used to work the overnights to New Zealand, Tokyo, and Singapore. It had been six months since his wife passed, and it was time to resume his usual schedule. He needed an extra pair of hands, someone who could drive the kids to school when he was flying. He didn’t care that I couldn’t commit to a year. He couldn’t either. He said this would be a good way to test the nanny plan—he wasn’t sure it was the right long-term solution for them—and I said that sounds great to me, and we shook hands, the deal done. He did not ask to make a copy of my passport. He was tired and I was good enough for now.
The house is a rancher half-painted in such an ill-chosen orange—probably called “Happy Face” or “Sunny Outlook”—that I wonder if he’s color-blind, or relied on his wife for those sorts of decisions. Gallon cans, half unopened, line the porch. There’s no discernible method to the painting, just halfhearted swaths of color here and there. The patches under the windows make it look like the house itself is crying.
In the living room, John’s widowhood is even more evident. There’s crayon on the walls and puzzle pieces sprinkled on the floor. The sofa’s slipcover is bunched up. On the side table, a plastic dinosaur is tipped over in rigor mortis beside a framed school photo of a girl in a plaid uniform, pushed back against a small treasure chest you might get from a dentist or a fast-food restaurant. A piano bench overflows with drawings on pages that, I see as I get closer, are sheet music. Tilt, I hear my mother say, which I believe refers to the message pinball machines flash when players lose control, but I can’t say for sure. Some of her expressions are hard to deconstruct. (I learned only recently that when she says Mikey! after the first bite of something good, she’s alluding to the old Life cereal commercial.)
My bag unpacked, John’s son, Martin, trots toward me on the balls of his feet like a show pony. He’s scrawny, and his ears rise to a point, like the Texan Ross Perot, who just announced his campaign for president.
“Keely!” he calls, his accent lifting the middle of my name until it rhymes with wheelie. I met him only briefly during the interview last week, but that’s no matter to him. We’re friends already.
His smile is loose and wavy, and his lips have a line of red crust along the edges from too much licking. I have lip balm in my pocket. I could start fixing him right now.
“Listen!” he says. I watch as he bangs around on the piano, creating a soaring anthem of madness and joy before spinning around to check my reaction, making me feel important.
“Brilliant. Bravo! Do it again!” I say, clapping. He whips back around, raises his hands high in the air, and pauses like a pelican hovering over an unsuspecting fish. “Go!” I say.
He drops his hands to the keys in a free fall and hammers out a near cousin to his first composition.
“LOUD RUBBISH,” Milly, who would hardly look at me when we met, hollers from the TV room. “I’M TRYING TO WATCH MY SHOW!”
“I can play! Keely wants me to play!”
“Well, I don’t!” she shouts. “Daddy!”
“OY!” John silences the two of them. All three of us, actually.
I peek around the corner to make nice with Milly, who sits low in a chair, wearing her school uniform: a plaid kilt with a thin white shirt, untucked. Her lips are pressed together, her hands tucked under her thighs. If she could make herself disappear into the crease of the chair, she would. She has a round face, a dozen freckles sprinkled across each cheek, blue eyes, and thick sandy hair gilded with highlights that a middle-aged woman would pay a lot for.
“Hello,” I say.
“Hi,” she says, barely moving her lips.
“So, you’re coming up on eight, right? Wow!” She looks at me like, Really? Is it really so “wow”? Her fingernail polish is chipped. I have a bottle of polish in my bag. I could fix her, too. “What grade are you in again?”
She doesn’t answer.
“Amelia Tanner, Kelly is asking you a question,” John prods from the kitchen.
“What are you watching?”
“Television.” Little Miss Smart-mouth, I hear my mom say.
“Do you like hard candy?” I hold out a lemon drop.
“No. Thank you.” Her accent brings to mind the British Royals, as do her robotic manners. She doesn’t want a nanny. She knows how it is that her family has come to need the help of Some Lady. She knows I’m here to help everyone Transition. Even if no one else cares that a stranger will soon be making her sandwiches, zipping her jacket, and signing her permission slips on the line clearly marked Parent’s Signature, her loyalty is with her mother, wherever she is.
“What’s your name?” Martin says, appearing behind me holding a big encyclopedic book called Marsupials.
“You know my name, silly. Kelly.”
“What’s your mum’s name?” he asks innocently. I glance over at Milly, who doesn’t seem to be disturbed by his question.
“What’s your name?”
“What’s your mum’s name?” he says again, in the very same cheery tone that, mercifully, undercuts what otherwise would be an unbearably sad call-and-response.
I look to Milly for help, but she’s busy transmitting her distrust using only her eyes: Don’t think you can come in here and take over just because you’re all buddy-buddy with my chump brother. She will not be diverted by my cheer and candy. She will not throw open the gates to the territory and stand by while I tromp all over their sacred ground.
Well guess what, Milly Tanner? I don’t want to be here, either. I didn’t save for a year and fly halfway across the world to stir-fry kangaroo meat and pick up your “skivvies” off the bathroom floor. This was supposed to be my trip of a lifetime, my Technicolor dream.
Things happen when you leave the house. That’s my motto. I made it up on an Outward Bound trip after college. During the Solo—three days and three nights alone on a stretch of beach in the Florida Everglades with a tent, five gallons of water, an apple, an orange, and a first-aid kit—I made the most of what my hairy vegan counselor, Jane, called “a singular opportunity to plan your life.”
After deciding where to put my tent, dragging my water into a patch of shade, floating naked and singing “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor, I pulled out my journal and mapped out my life in yearly, sometimes monthly, increments. No way was I going to be just another apple rotting at the base of my mother’s tree. I was going to roll. I was going to Do Things Worth Doing and Know Things Worth Knowing. Seventy-two hours later, when Jane pulled up in the motorboat, all major decisions were settled: work, grad school, relationships, moves, marriage, childbearing. I went all the way up to my death, a peaceful event that I scheduled for 2057.
But for all my zealous imagining, a year later I looked up from my life and was deeply unimpressed. I worked at the bottom rung of a nonprofit in downtown Baltimore, and thanks to the understandably pitiful pay, I lived with Libby, my grandmother on my mom’s side, which meant that except for Tuesdays, when I had Weight Watchers, I spent every weeknight eating roasted meats and Pillsbury dinner rolls with Libby and her very crazy brother, whom everyone called Uncle Slug. By eight o’clock on any given night, I was up in my room—the room where my great-great-aunt Gerty lived until she died in the rocking chair that still sat by the window—highlighting The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People until my next move became clear.
If I really wanted to grow, well, that was not going to happen while I was living with my granny, driving my shit Honda two miles to the office every day, clocking in to happy hour on Water Street at five p.m., hoping some club lacrosse player would try to suck my face behind the phone booth after pounding a Jägermeister shot. I needed to get out. I needed an adventure. So I found a round-the-world ticket on sale in the back of The New York Times and talked Tracy into coming with me. One year, seven countries, bang-o—odyssey!
When I laid out the plan for my parents, my dad said, “Lovey, FANTASTIC!” He would know. He went to Australia with a lacrosse team back in the late fifties. “Go get ’em, Lovey!” He’s a Life Eater, my dad.
My mom said, “You haven’t been out of college two years yet. You need to focus on making money, saving up.”
“I have saved. How do you think I’m paying for the plane ticket?”
“You should be using that money to get established, get your own health insurance, not traipse all over creation,” she said. “I certainly hope you’re not expecting help from your father and me.”
“I’m not.” (Hoping, maybe.)
“Good. You don’t want to come home to a mountain of debt.”
“Mom, I get it.”
“You get it. I bet you get it,” she said, mostly to herself, as she cut a sliver of lemon rind to toss in her five o’clock drink.
“Anyway, I’ll go back to work when I get home.”
“You better hope they’ll take you back.”
She looked at me like I thought I knew everything. “You really think you know everything, don’t you?”
“Here’s what I know: I want Life Experience!”
“You know what’s good Life Experience? Life. Real life is excellent life experience,” she said, pleased with her retort. “How does running around Australia apply to anything . . . like working, marriage, family?”
“Mom—God! You know what? Things happen when you leave the house.”
“I’m not going to magically become interesting sitting on the sofa. I’m not going to learn anything—my values, or purpose, or point of view—at home. Things happen when you leave, when you walk out the door, up the driveway, and into the world.”
“I don’t know why you don’t walk out the door and go to an office, like everyone else.”
Despite my mom’s total failure to get behind me, I liked everything about the odyssey plan. I even liked the vocabulary of travel. Ripping yarns of distant shores, exotic vistas, excursions, expeditions. Show me the poetry in ground-beef special, informational interview, staff development.
Two months later, my parents walked me to the gate at JFK. I spotted Tracy from a hundred yards away—she’s six feet, a head taller than all the Taiwanese in line for our flight to Taipei—with her mom. They have the same haircut because they go to the same hairdresser; they share clothes and shoes, sunglasses and jewelry, which they can do because Tracy’s mom has pierced ears, like a normal person. My mom wears clip-ons that feel like little vises on my earlobes.
Reading Group Guide
A Conversation Among the Generations
July 26, 2014
Last summer, the girls and I visited my parents at Wooded Lane. On our last night (of possibly a few too many), we were told to meet in the TV room at 4:55 p.m. to watch a horse race, one of my mom’s favorite things to do, though after fifty-two years as my father’s wife, she has acclimated to all spectator sports (not to mention all sports commentary, e.g., ESPN’s Pardon the Interruption). “Our horse is number seven, Sierra Alpha,” Jammy explained, because Sierra Alpha was trained by her best friend’s grandson. Turns out, our horse ran a strong race to finish second. Things were looking up.
We moved to the kitchen table for drinks (the girls had the sugar-free cranberry juice my mother bought to placate me) and to play a few rounds of Rummikub. Claire, eleven, won repeatedly, while Georgia, nearly thirteen, pretended not to care. We switched then to King and Scum, a card game Tracy Tuttle and I learned from some Sigma Chi’s in college. Hanging over my head was an assignment from Jen Smith, my editor, God love her, who had asked me more than once if I might be able to capture a conversation with my mom to include in the back of the paperback. I explained to her that this sort of thing—introspecting about interpersonal relationships—ran a high risk of making my mom’s skin visibly slither, but alas, I love Jen Smith, not to mention my readers, so I tried. Here’s what happened:
Me [opening my laptop]: So, Ma, I gotta ask you a few questions before we leave tomorrow.
Jammy [ignoring me, talking only to the girls, referring to her black T-shirt that says grandmas gone wild in small rhinestones affixed by a professional grade BeDazzler]: I wore my diamonds tonight. Don’t you like my diamonds?
Claire: I love them. Jammy’s gone wild.
Me: Nice, Ma.
Georgia [looking up from her cell; frowning at my fingers as they skip around the keyboard]: Mom, you aren’t putting this all in your thing, are you?
Me: Yes, all of it. Okay, so Mom, what are some of the differences between my mothering style and yours?
Jammy [eyeballing my laptop]: I don’t use my computer 7/24.
Georgia [laughing]: Jammy, it’s 24/7!
Claire: 7/24! Jammy said 7/24—
Jammy: 24/7! Whatever. Just wait till you get old.
Me: So, yes, okay, well, other than computers and technology—
Jammy: And iPhones . . .
Me: And iPhones, yes. But all that’s my whole generation. What are some of the more specific differences between the way you and I parent?
Jammy [shuffling the deck, ready to be done with this nonsense]: I think you have more highs and lows than I had. I was more even-keeled. More down the middle. I think you’re very easy sometimes, and then at other times you get very worked up, more stressed, more agitated.
Me [deciding whether to push back or quietly take offense]: Okay, interesting. Duly noted. Moving on: Who do you think was more strict—you or me?
Georgia: Jammy is definitely more strict.
Jammy: Don’t say more strict, Georgia. It’s stricter.
Claire: Me too. I think Jammy is more strict.
Jammy: Stricter, Claire. For heaven’s sake, Kelly, do these girls learn grammar in school?
Georgia: We’re on vacation.
Jammy: Grammar never takes a vacation.
Me [ignoring the grammar talk, except to recall with a smile my backup idea for a title, Poetry and Prose]: Really girls? You don’t think I’m stricter?
Georgia [looking at me]: I’ve had Jammy as a grandmother and she’s way more stricter than you.
[My mother and I share a long, surprised look. Absurd, our expressions say in unison. Jammy is a fool for my girls, an absolute bleeding heart.]
Me: Compare me as a kid and the girls now. How was I different?
Jammy: They’re full of it, I’ll say that, but you were very opinionated. You let me know exactly what you thought about everything. Every. Little. Thing.
Greenie [having wandered over, now laughing in agreement]: You were very verbal, Lovey.
[We are all smiling now. I’m still “verbal.” An easy joke among my friends is that where any crowd gathers—a line at Target, say—I’m liable to flip over the nearest shopping basket and speak out on some issue that I’ve been working through, and I’m always working through some issue.]
Claire: I have a question. What’s the hardest part about being a mom?
Me: I hate not knowing what to do. There’s a lot of times that I don’t know what to do. I thought I was going to be more sure—
Jammy: More sure? Good grief. Surer.
Georgia: Oh my God, Jammy.
Jammy: God? Are we going to church? Are we praying now?
Me [addressing Claire]: I thought I would be surer. But then, and this happens all the time, some situation will bubble up and I’ll be totally lost, or torn. Like you’ll ask to go to some concert, or for some expensive flat iron, and I don’t know whether to give it to you or not. I can’t even decide how late to let you stay up on a school night. And I don’t know how to teach you about money, like whether or not you should have an allowance, how many chores, how many bathing suits.
Georgia: More than one!
Me [suddenly really needing to get this out]: And I often don’t know what’s fair to expect of you, like whether I should punish you for losing your Stanford sweatshirt or forgetting to feed the dog . . . I mean, I lose things. I forget things.
[Georgia nods as if she’s been waiting for me to notice this for years.]
Me: I know I have to pick my battles—I get that—but I find it hard to figure out which ones to pick. [To my mom] You knew, Ma. You always knew. You were dead sure.
Jammy: No, I wasn’t. Never. [I am wide-eyed.] I pretended.
Greenie [looking at me]: She pretended. She pretended beautifully.
Me: Wow. I’m stunned.
Georgia: You don’t pretend, Mom. I can totally tell when you don’t know what to do.
Me [still staring at my mother]: You were bluffing?
Jammy: Very ladylike.
Georgia: Jammy, Claire burps 7/24.
Jammy: Very funny.
Georgia: One thing about you as a mom, Mom, you’re very open with us. You’re, like, emotionally open. I can read you. Like, I know when you say Dad and I are going to talk about it, that means you don’t know what to do.
Claire: And you’re very open to our ideas.
Georgia: Oh, I totally disagree.
Claire [to Georgia]: No, she negotiates. Like if we want a new lacrosse stick or an app, we can try to cut a deal.
Georgia: She’s a compromiser, I guess, sometimes. Except when the wall comes down—like when we wanted to watch Step Brothers, and then, no way, you are not open for business.
Claire: Yeah, you have two sides to you. Your right side and your left side. [Cracking up.]
Georgia: Oh my God, Claire.
Jammy: We certainly are praying a lot tonight, aren’t we?
Me [giving the hush-up wave to the girls]: Okay, Ma, did you ever think I would be a writer?
Jammy: Definitely. You loved to write. Even when you worked at United Way, I still thought you would be a writer. You were very expressive. You are very expressive. [Handing Georgia a few plates] Take this over, Sugar.
Georgia: One sec.
Jammy [feigning shock]: Excuse me? You know what I used to tell your mother: Obey instantly, without comment.
Georgia [taking the plates over to the sink]: More strict.
Claire [to Jammy]: Who is more difficult to take care of: us or your kids?
Jammy: Well, I can spoil you girls. With your mother and your uncles, I had to constantly say No. That’s the job. I was the glue.
[I’m nodding. Glitter and Glue was definitely the right title]
Jammy: Being a grandmother is wonderful. [Looking at me, bemused] Shame there’s only one way to get here. [To the girls] You are the glitter of our golden years.
Greenie: That’s what we say, Lovey: Our grandchildren are the glitter of our golden years.
Me: Is there anything I do that makes you think, Oh, she got that from me?
Jammy [flatly]: No. I can’t think of anything.
Jammy: Not my religion, you barely know who Barry Goldwater was, and you don’t play bridge.
Me: Don’t you think I got the whole girlfriend thing from you? The Pigeons . . .
Jammy [brightening]: Yes! There’s something. Definitely. When I see you with Betsy or Tracy or Michelle Constable, I think, She’s a Pigeon-in-Training.
Me: Anything else?
Me: Okay, so how were you different with me than with Booker and GT?
Jammy: I don’t know. I didn’t raise the three of you the same.
Me: Right. So how?
Jammy: I don’t know. You needed different things.
Me: Like . . . ?
Jammy: Oh I don’t know. [Waving me off] I don’t like these conversations. It’s like you watching Bill O’Reilly. I don’t make you watch Bill O’Reilly, do I?
Me: You’re not going to answer these questions, are you?
Jammy: Let’s just play cards. Can’t we just play cards?
I asked her the next morning if she was glad I turned out to be a writer. She said, “Sure, I guess.” Suddenly anxious, I asked her if she ever wished that I didn’t write Glitter and Glue. “Absolutely not. I love that book. I think it’s your best one.” I said, “Well, I would think so. I mean, it’s all about you.” But she assured me that her assessment had nothing whatsoever to do with her portrayal as a tireless maternal genius. She just thought my writing “had gotten a lot tighter.”
After a pause, her hands back in the sink, where there were dishes to be done, she said, “Now can this be over?”
Now this can be over, Ma. Except to include this final photo of a vivacious knockout in her prime, a frank and complicated woman I would have loved to have been seated next to that evening, to have known as a peer, so that maybe it wouldn’t have taken me forty years to appreciate her properly.
1. As a young woman Kelly thinks, “Things happens when you leave the house,” and books a round-the-world trip to Australia. Do you think that these types of adventures are necessary to gain life experience? Does Kelly’s maxim change by the end of the book?
2. Milly and Martin respond differently to Kelly’s entry into their lives. Why do you think this is? When (if ever) do things begin to change with Milly?
3. Like the characters in the book My Ántonia, Kelly wants to be someone important to Evan. What does she mean by that? Based on what Kelly reveals about Evan at the end of her story, do you think she was successful? Why or why not?
4. During her time in Australia, Kelly realizes that it’s only when she’s away from her mother that she can appreciate her forthright, often unyielding nature and the role she played in Kelly’s childhood. Have you come to see anything more clearly about your own mother over time?
5. Kelly often hears her mother’s voice in her head, offering advice and reciting her maxims as she tries to care for Milly and Martin. Has something similar ever happened to you? Does your mother have rules to live by?
6. What is the significance of Walker the American? How does he influence Kelly’s understanding of life experience?
7. Do you think daughters’ relationships with their fathers are inherently different from their relationships with their -mothers? Does Kelly’s relationship with Greenie support this? What does the fact that Mary kept Kelly’s shoplifting a secret from her father suggest?
8. John Tanner is working hard and quietly to raise his kids when Kelly arrives. How does he change over the course of the book? How would you have tried to help him adjust to his new circumstances?
9. When Kelly works at her mom’s real estate agency, she is shocked to hear co-workers describe her mother as “the life of the office” (page 87). Why is this an important moment for Kelly? How is your perception of your own mother different from her friends’ and colleagues’ perceptions?
10. On page 146, Kelly explains the phenomenon called “Reader Response.” Did you find yourself interpreting Glitter and Glue through the lens of your own personal experiences? Is it possible to read any book without automatically subconsciously comparing it to your own life?
11. Kelly remembers many vivid moments from her stay with the Tanners, including her trip to the beach and Martin’s tantrum walking home from school. Why do you think Kelly still thinks about the Tanners? Why do you think she chose to write this story after her cancer scare?
12. Of all the ideas juxtaposed in these pages—mothers and fathers, adventure and life experience, stepping out and stepping up—which resonate the most with you? Why?
13. On page 47, we learn where the title Glitter and Glue comes from. What do you think of having one parent as the glitter and another as the glue? Is this what it was like in your own family? Was this always the case?
14. Kelly often says that, for her, Glitter and Glue is fundamentally about acceptance, which she calls “the Mt. Everest of emotions . . . hard to get there, hard to stay there.” She defines acceptance as the moment you “actually stop trying to change someone, not because you’ve given up but because you finally realize that their way of being in the world is the right way for them.” Have you experienced this level of acceptance, either as the person accepted or the person accepting?
15. Kelly also talks about the difference between like and love, something she learned through her relationship with her mom. She says she “used to think love was just a whole lot of like but now she sees that you can like people you might never be able to love and you can love people deeply that you don’t particularly like.” Do you have any relationships that fall into either of these categories?
Kelly Corrigan on her new memoir GLITTER AND GLUE
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.
I love hearing from readers so please feel free to connect with me online.