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Kelly Corrigan
Glitter and Glue: A Memoir
Ballantine Books / Random House
US Hardcover First Edition
ISBN 978-0-345-53283-1
Publication Date: 02-04-2014
228 Pages; $26.00
Date Reviewed: 02-09-2014
Reviewed by: Rick Kleffel © 2014

Index:  Non-Fiction

Kelly Corrigan, as she reveals herself at the beginning of 'Glitter and Glue,' is a classic American college graduate. She wants adventure. "Things happen when you leave the house," she tells herself, and then leaves on an adventure to Australia. But adventure is not free. She runs out of money pretty quickly and ends up as a nanny, which is where her adventure in fact begins.

'Glitter and Glue' is a beautifully written, taut and intensely readable story about a young woman who discovers both her mother and herself. For much of the book, Corrigan seems to simply be telling stories about her time as a nanny. It wasn't a simple situation. She'd been fired from her first attempt because she'd gently balked when asked to clean the tiles of an indoor pool. Her next gig found her in the middle of a very unusual situation.

The Tanner family consisted of George, a widower, whose wife had died of cancer, their two young children, his wife's son from her first marriage, who was almost as old as Corrigan, and his wife's father. From servitude to grief, divorce and surrogate motherhood was a journey that the young Corrigan made unthinkingly; we see her trying to keep up and fit in as best she can.

But there's another journey interwoven here. Away from her mother for the first time, Corrigan finds herself taking on a mother's role and reflecting that role off of her experience of her own mother. The writing here is a miracle. Corrigan is all show and no tell. She subtly combines and conflates the woman she is now with the girl she is then, while keeping the two characters very separate. It's a fascinating plot and done with the right combination of subtlety and self-realization.

Beyond the internal character movements, 'Glitter and Glue' also gets the external story telling down with an ease so great that readers won't realize just how smart this all is. The moments with the Tanners are funny and sweet and charming, but always cut with the tart distance of the twenty-something Corrigan.

Corrigan is an accomplished memoirist and while 'Glitter and Glue' may key off from her other works, it stands fine on its own. Corrigan provides all the context needed to understand her own journey towards her vision of her mother not just as a mother, but as a person. 'Glitter and Glue' is charming and smart, the good kid on the block who does well, the one we all like — and remember longer than we have any reason to. Corrigan's memoir reads like a fun little book, but has the staying power of a sweet memory.

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