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Mark Twain wrote of his father, "When I was a boy of 14, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around, but when I got to be 21, I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in seven years." The same could be said about Kelly Corrigan and the theme of her third novel, Glitter and Glue, a memoir of her post-college trek to the land down under.
Readers of the New York Times bestseller A Middle Place already will be familiar with Corrigan's family. Her dad is the Radnor, Pa., lacrosse coach, her mother is a real estate agent and she has two brothers. Kelly is the only daughter and, while frequently at odds with her mother, is coddled and praised by her father. These relationships give rise to the title as her mother explains their conflicting child-rearing philosophies, "He's the glitter and I'm the glue."
Kelly begins to understand what her mother means, when just out of college, she and her friend, Tracy, take their savings and go half-way around the world to Australia in search of fun, adventure and guys in no particular order, preferably all at once. After two months of the good life, they find themselves at a hostel in Sydney and out of cash. Searching for jobs in bars, restaurants, surf shacks and burger joints, with zero results, in desperation they check the want ads in the newspapers for a position as nanny.
After a misstep or two, Kelly finally connects with a recent widower who has a seven-year-old daughter, Milly, and a five-year-old ball of energy, Martin. Martin and Kelly bond almost immediately, but Milly is more reserved. The father, John Tanner, is a steward for Qantas airlines and needs a live-in helper who can see to the needs of the children when he's on an overnight schedule.
As events unfold, two more individuals round out the family—the dead wife's grown son from her first marriage as well as the wife's father, neither of whom live in the house, but are nearby.
As Kelly manages to bring some order to the chaos in the house in the five months she is there, her mind constantly hears her mother's voice issuing edicts and homilies on how to raise children and how they should behave. It will come as no surprise to the reader that the longer Kelly is in the Tanner house, the wiser her mother becomes.
Corrigan writes with humor and compassion. I particularly liked her anecdote about working as a hat check girl at the Yang Ming restaurant one of my favorite restaurants to visit when I'm in Philadelphia. Glitter and Glue is a good book to read while sitting on the patio on a sunny afternoon and thinking about your own parents and family. She writes poignantly of the closeness that develops as they overcome some severe health issues, a topic she covered in her first two books.
Now married with two children of her own, she includes another anecdote to illustrate that the age-old generation gap still exists. "For the yearbook, the fifth-graders at Havens Elementary are asked to name the one person they most admire. Finley Swan said, "My mom!" So did that sweet Madeline Malan. My daughter put "Tom Brady.""
Beaver Area Memorial Library