"Of the demons afflicting the well-heeled Montgomery family, the most obvious is cancer, ravaging the body of the author's beloved father. Equally insidious is alcohol: even at age seventy-eight [Montgomery's mother] begins the day with a cocktail. But the evil the author seems most interested in exorcising in this wrenching, unsentimental memoir is denial, the organizing principal of the family's life.... Montgomery's portrait of modern death is harrowing, but it's uplifting, too."
"A stunning addition to the literature of drunken mothers. Montgomery has a lovely, straightforward, trustworthy style. You like her utter lack of self-pity. You appreciate the absence of bitterness and judgment. There's no pretense of offering some grand lesson, other than love: Love as best as you can for as long as you can. That's all."
-- Los Angeles Times
"What Montgomery does, uncannily well, is to catch how normal an alcoholic family feels when you're in the midst of it. Montgomery has wrung an engrossing book from her eccentric (at best) childhood and the journey of reconnection she and her brother and sister take in the wake of their father's terminal diagnosis....Montgomery's greatest gift is to be able to describe her family clearly and unsentimentally but without cruelty. That's what allows us to laugh with the Montgomerys but certainly not to laugh at them. They're much too compelling for that."
-- O, The Oprah Magazine
"Most families have a black sheep. Montgomery's had a black hole -- her mother, a frustrated performer and prodigious drunk. So imagine Montgomery's surprise when she is called home to mount a death watch -- not for her Mumzy, but for her tight-lipped father, always something of a cipher for his children. Her memoir of a belatedly dutiful daughter, harrowing and inevitably heartbreaking, also manages to be scathingly funny."
-- The Boston Globe
"This is not just another memoir of alcoholism and family dysfunction -- this is the smartest, funniest, warmest, and most wicked of alcoholism and family dysfunction memoirs to come along in many years. Lee Montgomery paints flawed and aching people with a touching and lovely palette."
-- Anthony Swofford,author of Jarhead
"A monster mother, a beloved father, a trio of grown siblings who reunite to deal with a death in the family. The Things Between Us is unflinching and absolutely as fascinating as it is sad. It's also a scathing attack on the practice of medicine in America today and a perhaps inadvertent plea for us to rethink the role of hospice and our dying process."
-- Carolyn See, author of Making a Literary Life
In her bittersweet memoir of her father's death from metastatic stomach cancer, Montgomery (editor of Tin House magazine) charts the rough terrain of her eccentric New England family life and explores the trauma it took to reunite her dysfunctional family. Montgomery's mother is a falling-down drunk who has gin for breakfast; her gentleman farmer father, Big Dad, ignores his wife's alcoholism. The author's sister, Lael, and brother, Bob, are nine and six years her senior: Montgomery feels as if she grew up solo, in a different world than they. Escaping harsh realities is a family trait and none of the family has spent so much as a holiday together in more than a decade before Big Dad's news, when they all, reluctantly, come home. Montgomery skillfully shifts her narrative between the harrowing dailiness of her father's yearlong illness, her mother's escalating drunkenness, her own impending sense of loss and a damaging familial past she recalls with deeply mixed emotions. Montgomery's lyric and nuanced rendering of her love for her miscreant tribe has comic as well as tragic moments, but she steers clear of both sentimentality and New England stoicism, creating a tender portrait of modern death and real American families. (Aug. 9) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Montgomery (executive editor, Tin House magazine; editorial director, Tin House Books) has spent much of her life escaping her eccentric, dysfunctional family, experimenting with drugs during her youth, and moving far from her girlhood home in Framingham, MA, as an adult. While she has remained connected to her father, Big Dad, the parent on whom she depended while growing up, her mother's persistent alcoholism and weird behavior continue to alienate her. Montgomery's two siblings have stayed away as well, the family having not congregated in more than ten years. When Big Dad is diagnosed with stomach cancer, Montgomery returns to the family home to care for him, supporting him through surgery and chemotherapy, while Mumzy escapes by drinking and flirting with her Bulgarian nurse. As Montgomery walks with her father and the two reminisce, she traces her life in this repressive family, wondering why no one ever called Mumzy an alcoholic. Montgomery writes her memoir with precision and grace, showing how a parent's decline and ultimate death can unite a family and lead to self-discovery, forgiveness, and healing. Recommended for large public collections.-Nancy R. Ives, SUNY at Geneseo Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
The executive editor of Tin House magazine perfectly captures a middle-aged rite of passage: returning home to help a parent die. Montgomery grew up in Massachusetts. Jovial "Big Dad," though emotionally distant, fiercely loved his three kids. Mumzy was a lush, larger than life except when passed out from too much gin. Their offspring escaped in various ways; Montgomery herself married and moved to the West Coast after several fraught vocational crises and love affairs. When her father, whom she had always tried to please, was diagnosed with stomach cancer, she headed east to care for him. Her debut memoir delineates Big Dad's sickness, Mumzy's ineffectual courage, the author's helpless attempts to micro-manage her father's diet and to control the experience by taking small, useless notes at the doctor's office. It captures the awkward pressure to have meaningful conversations before it's too late, the guilt over leaving ailing parents for even an hour, let alone a weekend. Montgomery expertly interweaves the present-tense narration, which describes Big Dad's decline in the late 1990s with occasional glances back to her '60s childhood, which are well placed and never gratuitous. Kudos also for her careful attention to the emotional thickets of siblinghood; she subtly renders the struggles and strains among a brother and two sisters suddenly called on to act like adults in a situation that encourages regression to childishness. The author lays bear the trials of alcoholism with a light touch, never descending into whining or acrimony: "I will never be able to explain my mother, but I will most likely spend my life trying. . . . How do you explain that your mother drinks gin andtonics for breakfast? You don't."Everyone with a terminally ill parent should read this spare account, which is damn near perfect.