They Left Us Everything

Plum Johnson won the 2015 RBC Taylor Prize for They Left Us Everything.

Plum Johnson

After almost twenty years of caring for elderly parents — first for their senile father, 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. (From Penguin Canada)

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From the book

The night before I turn sixty-three, I'm looking in the mirror, pulling up my sagging jawline up to my ears, listening to voicemails on speakerphone. Three are from Mum:

"Happy birthday m'darlin'!"

"Promise you'll drive out first thing tomorrow!"

"Damn this machine! Call me!"

Mum is ninety-three, and these are her messages just since dinner. Nineteen years, one month, and twenty-six days of eldercare have brought me to my knees. But first thing next morning, I crawl to my car, hack at the ice on my windshield, and slump into the front seat with the heater cranked up.

From They Left Us Everything by Plum Johnson ©2014. Published by Penguin Canada.

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