Winner of the 2015 RBC Taylor Prize
Winner of the 2016 Forest of Reading® Evergreen Award™
After almost twenty years of caring for elderly parents—first for their senile father, and then for their cantankerous ninety-three-year-old mother—author Plum Johnson and her three younger brothers experience conflicted feelings of grief and relief when their mother, the surviving parent, dies. Now they must empty and sell the beloved family home, which hasn’t been de-cluttered in more than half a century. Twenty-three rooms bulge with history, antiques, and oxygen tanks. Plum remembers her loving but difficult parents who could not have been more different: the British father, a handsome, disciplined patriarch who nonetheless could not control his opinionated, extroverted Southern-belle wife who loved tennis and gin gimlets. The task consumes her, becoming more rewarding than she ever imagined. Items from childhood trigger memories of her eccentric family growing up in a small town on the shores of Lake Ontario in the 1950s and 60s. But unearthing new facts about her parents helps her reconcile those relationships with a more accepting perspective about who they were and what they valued.
They Left Us Everything is a funny, touching memoir about the importance of preserving family history to make sense of the past and nurturing family bonds to safeguard the future.
An eclectic family and their long-time family home, both rich with history and depth, provide the backdrop for a candid memoir by Johnson, a Toronto-based author, entrepreneur and publisher. Chronicling Johnson's personal journey after the death of her mother, the book follows her 16-month quest to empty the labyrinthine family home, brimming with the archaeological m lange of generations, and navigate the emotional fallout of their conflicted relationship. Unearthed family treasures spark memories and fill blanks, from Johnson's childhood with an authoritative British father constantly at odds with her free-spirited Southern-Belle mother to her adulthood spent caring for them as their bodies and minds deteriorated. At times heartbreaking and at others hysterically funny, Johnson's memories propel the narrative from volatile mid-century Singapore to a sprawling, colonial-era Virginia estate and beyond, but always settle back to the rambling family home on the shores of Lake Ontario; a place "seared into their bones." Though it can be undirected and chronologically disjointed, suggesting a highly reflective writing process, the book's descriptive prose brings these places and people to life and poignantly conveys the quasi-spiritual journey that helps Johnson overcome her grief.
Customer ReviewsSee All
They left us everything
Loved it. So descriptive and lovingly told story
They Left Us Everything
What a delightful read
They Left Us Everything
What a wonderful book a must read for adult children of aging parents. Sensitive, funny and thought provoking. Thank you.