I read Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan all afternoon and evening yesterday. At one point, Corrigan reflects on her own reading of My Antonia by saying
I remember a lecture from one of my lit classes about a theory called "Reader Response," which basically says: More often than not, it's the readers--not the writers--who determine what a book means. The idea is that readers don't come blank to books. Consciously and not, we bring all the biases that come with our nationality, gender, race, class, age. Then you layer onto that the status of our health, employment, relationships, not to mention our particular relationship to each book--who gave it to us, where we read it, what books we've already read--and, as my professor put it, "That massive array of spices has as much to do with the flavor of the soup as whatever the cook intended."
So is this why I wept audibly at one point in reading Glitter and Glue? My own mother died at age 59 when I was only 22 years old. I never had a chance to know her as a grown-up; I only knew her as someone who loved us but was not always easy to live with.
Corrigan did get the opportunity to appreciate her mother as an adult, especially when she was needy herself after diagnoses of cancer. For me the best parts of this book were not her thoughts about her mother today but the longer middle section relating her five months of being a nanny twenty years ago in Australia to two children whose own mother had just passed away from cancer (my reaction is exactly the opposite to the Washington Post reviewer on this). Her observations of the children's neediness and resistance as well as her own awkwardness and earnestness was very honest and poignant. It was during those months that she learned to appreciate her own mother and also to recognize that she herself would want to be a mother someday.
Glitter and Glue? Corrigan realizes that her father whom she loved dearly was the "glitter" in her growing up, but her mother was the "glue." Again, I see myself and my husband in this word picture. I think our kids (oops--children as Corrigan's mother would have insisted they are called!) would see their dad as the parent who was more fun. Maybe or maybe not they would realize that a lot of the behind the scenes work came from me. This is still true with our grandparenting. Grandpa is the "silly grandpa" but it is because of my initiative and planning that we are able to spend time with them.
I don't know what my own daughter, a mother of three little ones, would think of this book. I wonder if she hears my voice in her head as she interacts with her children. I don't know that I will recommend it to her at this point in her life.