The Middle Place

The Middle Place

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 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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781401341411
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 10/06/2009
Edition description: B&N Edition
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Kelly Corrigan is, more than anything else, the mother of two young girls. While they're at school, Kelly writes a newspaper column and the occasional magazine article and possible chapters of a novel. She is also the creator of, a website to teach people how to help a friend through breast cancer. Kelly lives outside San Francisco with her husband, Edward Lichty.

Read an Excerpt


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.


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.

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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The Middle Place 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 150 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I love memoirs and often sit and evaluate what makes one work while another doesn't. Is it content? Writing style? Well, its both. Interesting, moving, compelling content must be merged with a fresh voice and keen insight about the experience. This book offers both. I obsessively read it in one weekend. I ignored my kids for a full day of reading one quiet Sunday. I laughed and cried so many times I lost track. It is funny, poignant, insightful. I wanted to know her family and be her friend. You have to read this book!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Recently picked this book as a choice for autobiography in a book club and was pleasantly suprised. Within the first 50 pages I had already laughed, cried and everything in between. Kelly has a gift for telling her story and keeping you turning the pages. Our book club had a very intense discussion, even without the aid of the reading group questions on their website. We are a group of younger women who aren't quite at the stage of life Kelly is at, but personally for me, I could still relate to her through her engaging tone. Great and easy read!
Jac49 More than 1 year ago
Hearing Kelly speak at a breast cancer event was my first exposure to her great sense of humor as she shared her life events and how she dealt with a cancer diagnosis. Kelly's bold hilarious manner makes you keenly aware of the funny side of cancer, but also the challenges of dealing with serious health issuess from the prospective of a real mom in the midst of dealing with everyday life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was fantastic. As a woman I can feel all of her anxiety and the love for her children. As a daughter who loves her Dad more than anyone in the world, I can feel all the love she has for her dad and all the worry and pain while he goes through his own tribulation. Absolutely heart warming and eye opening. Beautifully written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I picked up after being diagnosed with BC. I didn't even know what it was about. It hit the spot to feed my spirt. Like the author, I can definetly appreciate the blessing of being a daughter, friend, sister, wife, mother, and friend to all of the awesome people who have offered me their support at this time. Funny and inspiring as well as informational.
Visha More than 1 year ago
A charming true story about Kelly and her family. Lots of little homilies and insights into her life that make you realize you are not alone in this world. I thought it was well written and flowed nicely. She shared this part of her life in a touching and heartwarming story.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I laughed, I cried and then I bought five copies to give to my girlfriends. Kelly Corrigan is an amazing writer who ties together life lessons with the importance of family and friends. Send around the additional essay at the end to your girlfriends - it just puts life and love in perspective.
cantstopreading39 More than 1 year ago
This was a new author to all of us, discovered through her youtube clip ( which I received, then forwarded to club members. We discussed the characters and relationships in detail, felt we learned from them and enjoyed watching them, especially Kelly, learn and grow. Found the book at once warm and funny and sometimes profound.

We also discovered articles by her in Oprah: January 09 gives a glimpse into her future plans.

Definitely recommend this book and look forward to more from Kelly Corrigan.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Great book- I couldn't put it down! I'm pushing it on you because it's close to my heart (especially so at the moment) ...And, because after emailing the author a quick email to tell her what her story meant to me, she actually took the time (the same day) to send me a personal email in response. She also asked me to spread the word on her book. So- check out the trailer for her memoir. This is one memoir you will not forget. It's so real, so honest, and above all, it's something that every daughter, lucky enough to come from strong roots, can identify with.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in two days, which is no small feat in a household with three young children. Kelly pulls you in from the very beginning I was reading her book as if I were talking to my best friend. Kelly's story of her courageous battle with breast cancer and her relationships with her family, especially her father, were truly inspirational. And her account of 'the middle place', that place where you transition from a child to an adult, is so relatable. Kelly proves to all women that you can fight any battle as long as you stay strong, have faith, laugh and love!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and finished it in a single evening. Like Kelly, I had a special (grand)father living next door who offered up that rare joie de vivre and unconditional love similar to Greenie's. Her words resonated sharply and triggered strong emotional reaction as I reflected on how lucky we are to have enjoyed such a raw and authentic love, a touchstone that we as parents can now draw from as we grow our own kids. It was fun getting to know Kelly and her lovely family through the book - I look forward to the next chapter.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I couldn't put it down. I loved the addiction my emotions experienced reading about Corrigan's journey from laughing out loud to lumps in the throat - a journey not unlike any of ours and emotions just the same. She has a gift of putting them into words - enjoy!
huglady More than 1 year ago
Excellent reading. Made me laugh & made me cry.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Loved every word, every page! Humerous and heartfelt.
tsolinger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Middle Place could have easily been an uplifting story of surviving cancer; it would have been popular, inspirational, and I probably would have liked it. But the memoir was so much more. What happened to Corrigan was rare-her father got cancer while she was in treatment for breast cancer-yet so strikingly true. But Corrigan does not start with the news of her cancer; she first builds a bond with her reader. She shares funny, relatable, warm stories from her childhood. Then as she switches back and forth between her present life and struggle with cancer, she flashes back to her childhood, continuing to make the connection with the reader. Corrigan is stuck in this "middle place." She is married and has kids, yet she whenever something bad happens all she wants to do is call home and speak with her parents. Corrigan reminds the readers to stay a son or daughter for as long as you can because life can, and will, go on in our "middle place." The memoir created by Corrigan's successful marriage of humor and pain, life and death, her "new" family and her "old" is a wonderful one. In a quick read-I devoured this book-Corrigan teaches so much about life, family, love and death.
debs4jc on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an enthralling memoir where Kelly relates her experiences in dealing with breast cancer while raising two young girls. That would be struggle enough, but her biggest struggle was dealing with the cancer of her father, who has always been her biggest fan and who is loved and adored by many for his Irish charm. The audio version was engrossing and the narrator did an admirable job, voicing Kelly's words with conviction and even singing her family song with ease. I highly recommend this audiobook to anyone wanting to listen to a story filled with family love overcoming tremendous obtacles.
oldblack on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not a great book. The point of the story was a little unclear to me. It's supposed to be about a woman being both a 'child' and a parent at the same time - in the context of the possibility of death of both the woman and her father. I didn't warm to any of the characters, and found the father to be completely unbelievable - even if I met him face-to-face I'd feel that I was seeing someone who was pretending to be a person who couldn't exist. That is, he was always upbeat and cheerful in a completely over-the-top way. I don't experience life in a way that would make such a position tenable. The woman is somewhat more believable. I got the sense that there wasn't really much of a story here (woman gets breast cancer at a relatively young age, has aggressive treatment, survives. Father gets cancer and survives....both "so far") but it has been padded out into a book by an entrepreneur who thinks she can make money out of her experience.
mrstreme on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Middle Place at the surface was a memoir about Kelly Corrigan¿s fight against breast cancer. Kelly approached her cancer with every ounce of fight in her being, determined to survive it, beat it and scare it away. When her father was diagnosed with bladder cancer during Kelly¿s treatment, she realized that she couldn¿t fight her father¿s cancer too. In the end, this memoir was so much more about fighting ¿ it was about living, loving and cherishing every moment with people who enter your lives.Kelly¿s descriptions of her father, affectionately called ¿Greenie,¿ were charming and humorous. Greenie was one-of-a-kind ¿ a real Irish guy who put faith in God and in a firm handshake. His attitude was infectious. Thankfully, Kelly was plucky like her father, and between the two of them, cancer had tough opponents.I admire Kelly for revealing so much about herself to her readers. She was far from perfect. She was selfish about the love of her father. She was jealous of the adoration her husband felt for his parents. Her kids got on her nerves ¿ as did her brothers, friends and acquaintances. She¿s like me. And probably like you too.What resonated with me about this book was the emotional division one can feel between aging parents and raising children. I am at this point in my life. I am watching my traditionally agile and independent parents become less so ¿ all while battling my sons about their homework, schlepping kids to practice and trying to keep my professional edge. For certain, The Middle Place is not an easy place. Are you in The Middle Place? Then, I would highly recommend this memoir to you. The good thing about being in the middle, despite its flaws, is that you¿re always surrounded by generations of people who love you. Thank God for that.
phh333 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Got tired of the woman's constant ranting.
joannemepham29 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved Kelly Corrigan's other book Lift so much I had to read this one too, and although I did not love it as much I did love it. I love her writing style, and her honesty. I too felt like an actor reading a role upon having my first child, and while becoming an adult. She writes with such insight, and I would be anxious to see how she wrote a fiction book. This memoir filled me with many happy moments and sad one, but one feeling was predominant, and that was a feeling of hope.
TheLostEntwife on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
When I started reading THE MIDDLE PLACE I expected to read a memoir about a woman who battled with breast cancer. What I got was a story about an incredible man, George "Greenie" Corrigan, and everything else just seemed to pale in comparison. This book made me appreciate my own father. Like George Corrigan, my dad has an ability to make a stranger feel as if he or she is the most important person in the right there and then. My mom and I laugh whenever we take him out places because he enjoys just sitting down and striking up a conversation with whomever is closest to him - and he always finds something they are interested in to talk about. It's what made him a fantastic minister and continues to make him a father that I love with all my heart today. Kelly talks about how, as an adult, she is stuck somewhere in the middle place now, between being a daughter and a mother and struggling with finding her place in both roles. This was something I related to on so many levels. It's such a difficult thing - trying to figure out what you are supposed to let go of and what to cling to. I can't say I envied Kelly her parents because, like her, I have supportive, amazing parents who want to be actively involved in my life and, despite the ups and downs we have, I thank God daily for their support. This book stirred something in me that was very personal. It's a story full of quiet humor, love, strength and vulnerability and well worth the read.
mommablogsalot on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this memoir. It describes Kelly¿s battle with breast cancer but also talks about that middle place in your life where you are both a child and a parent, and has a lot of stories from her childhood up to present date. Really beautifully written.
dldbizacct on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A wonderfully written, touching memoir about families and crisis and beating the odds. The author is my age so her childhood pop culture references are particularly fun and meaningful to me. More than anything, I enjoyed this book because the goodness of her childhood and family is so good that it made me happy just to read about it. Her honesty is refreshing and her writing is real.
terkalin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I prefer fiction to nonfiction, but have enjoyed a few good memoirs. This book was great -- I tore through it in two days. Kelly Corrigan has great insight and a way with words. Her sense of humor and lifestyle is similar to mine, and I'd love to kick back with her and have a glass of wine. Although I've never had cancer (knocking loudly!), my mom beat it and I could sympathize with her situation in dealing with her dad's. The only thing I disagree with is that you must have children to be in "the middle place". As someone VERY happily childless (by choice), I feel I went through the middle place in my early to mid-thirties and crossed over last year when my dad died of a heart attack at 57. Kelly is so exuberant about her fantasticly wonderful children (which I understand...especially with such young girls and having experienced the "what ifs" associated with the horrifying ordeal of breast cancer), BUT, I don't think I will recommend this to my friends who are having problems getting pregnant, and definitely not to the few who are devastated at not being able to have kids. I think Kelly's enthusiasm on the subject of children would only rub salt in their wounds.
bermudaonion on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Kelly Corrigan grew up quite the ¿Daddy¿s Girl.¿ Her father, George, is one of those characters who everyone loves ¿ the kind of person who never meets a stranger. In 2004, Kelly was a happily married mother of two, comfortable in the middle place ¿ ¿that sliver of time when childhood and parenthood overlap.¿ While playing with her daughters one evening, Kelly discovered a lump in her breast that turned out to be cancer. While she was undergoing cancer treatments, her father found out that he had bladder cancer.The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan is more than the story of Kelly¿s and her father¿s battles with cancer. It includes stories from Kelly¿s past, so that you learn how she got to be who she is. The love she and her family have for each other is evident in the pages of this book. Kelly¿s parents really reminded me of my own parents. When Kelly¿s mother told her that one of the worst times of her life was Kelly¿s sixth grade year, I could tell that she is just like my mother. I really enjoyed this emotional book. I wouldn¿t call it sad, though ¿ it¿s really up-lifting and life affirming. I probably laughed more than I cried while I read it.