Published by Ballantine Books
Publication date: February 4th 2014
Glitter and Glue is a memoir that begins with Kelly Corrigan deciding to take a year off and travel around the world with her friend Tracy in order to break her post-college real world slump. The plans she’d so carefully laid out were not working as she’d hoped, leaving her in a low paying non-profit job and living with her grandmother. The pragmatic advice from her mother is to stay put, keep working away at her job, and save money. For Kelly, such advice is just one more bit of proof that her mother has no understanding of who she is and her mantra—Be Awake to the Possibilities. She yanks what money she has saved and takes off. When the money runs out in Australia after only two months of adventure the girls decide to get temporary jobs as nannies. Instead of exploring the aboriginal culture and trekking through foreign territory Kelly ends up in a suburb, working for a man whose wife is recently deceased, leaving him with two small children and a fulltime job as a Quantas steward.
Much of the memoir is spent on this time in Australia when, rather than finding cute boys and drinking a lot, Kelly is trying to reconstruct life for a little boy and a little girl who have lost their mother. It is a task for which she is completely unprepared, being both young and never having lived on her own or taken care of anyone. Maybe this is why, during these long days, her mother is a constant presence in the negative and commanding bits of mother-wisdom that run through her head as she maneuvers through the pseudo mommy-field of being a nanny. Gems like “You think electricity grows on trees”, “Remember, Kelly, today is about the good Lord, so let’s focus our thoughts on Jesus and Mary”, “Children, Kelly. Goats have kids. Are they goats?” actually provide relief and insight into what it takes to mother.
While there are no epiphanies in Kelly’s experience, she is left with a better understanding of many of her mother’s responses and, more importantly, a realization that what seemed like constant nagging and disapproval was in fact the best kind of love her mother could offer. She also realizes, as she is rebuffed by the children again and again, especially the daughter, how much her anger and disdain for her own mother must have hurt her. She recalls her mother saying
“Lemme tell you, Kelly, you changed me way more than I changed you.”
I didn’t know adults could be changed. I thought they were finished pieces, baked through and kiln-dried. I never understood that when we fought my mother was having actual emotional reactions.
Corrigan blends insight and wit to good effect in portraying both sides of the equation. Her mother, Mary, is a no-nonsense, no frills, cigarette smoking, bridge playing Catholic who has little time for the fun and fluff her daughter often looks for. She is of the school that believes a mother is a mother not a best friend. It is only later, as Kelly herself becomes a mother that she realizes from a woman’s perspective just what goes into parenting a daughter. It may be going a bit far to say that Glitter and Glue should be mandatory reading for all mothers and daughters but I cannot remember the last time non-fiction made me cry but cry I did when this book ended.