Cheryl Strayed wrote about how the death of her mother changed her life in the best-selling Wild. In a similar and yet very different vein, Kelly Corrigan writes about the effects of her mom’s presence in a wonderful new memoir, Glitter and Glue.
In an earlier book, The Middle Place, Corrigan paid tribute to her larger-than-life father, “Greenie.” In contrast to her optimistic cheerleader of a father, Corrigan’s mother has always been a practical, worrying realist. As this steadfast woman once explained to her daughter, “Your father’s the glitter but I’m the glue.”
Corrigan remembers as a child longing for a more lively, upbeat mom, but over the years, she’s come to realize what an essential and anchoring influence this glue has been, especially now that she’s a mother herself.
Corrigan first began truly appreciating her mother in 1992, when she ran out of money during an after-college backpacking trip around the world. She ended up as a nanny for John Tanner, an Australian widower with two children: 7-year-old Milly and 5-year-old Martin. There was also a handsome stepson in his early 20s named Evan, who adds a romantic interest to Corrigan’s Down Under adventure.
As Corrigan takes on a motherly role for the Tanner children, she constantly thinks about their late mother, a cancer victim, as she gains new insight into the challenges her own mother faced raising Corrigan and her two brothers. As she eloquently explains: “God knows, every day I spend with the Tanners, I feel like I’m opening a tiny flap on one of those advent calendars we used to hang in the kitchen every December 1, except instead of revealing Mary and Joseph and baby Jesus, it’s my mother. I can’t see all of her yet, but window by window, she is emerging.”
Young Corrigan set out on her journey in search of adventure, but along the way learned that many of life’s greatest rewards occur during everyday moments at home. And while this is indeed a “quiet” book in contrast to Strayed’s wild exploits, Glitter and Glue is both riveting and highly readable. Framed by a tight structure and compelling writing, this memoir is refreshingly non-dysfunctional.