I was thrilled to win a copy of Plum Johnson’s They Left Us Everything; after all, I’m a memoir-loving pack rat, and the idea of mentally accompanying someone sorting through a generation’s worth of family history was irresistible. In reading it, however, I got more than I bargained for. Johnson’s father died of Alzheimer’s, while my own father is currently battling dementia; Johnson’s family home was on a lovely piece of land by Lake Ontario, while my own family’s home was in the Rhode Island woods, an hour away from the ocean. We both enjoy rich family histories, albeit rich in different ways. As I shared Plum’s journey of discovery, I found myself wondering what it was like for my sister to help my parents prepare to move from that family home in RI to a much smaller house in Idaho. I will probably always regret not being there, both to help and to say goodbye to a place I still love fiercely, but I wasn’t in a stage of life conducive to doing either.
It is what it is.
Ultimately, I found Johnson’s memoir poignant, humorous, and well-written; it’s difficult, however, to accurately evaluate a work that took me on a sometimes uncomfortable emotional journey. It’s certainly worth reading, but I did–occasionally–find it hard to read. I suppose that’s an added endorsement in its own way, really, but–well, here’s the thing.
You should read it. You totally should. I’m glad I did.
I just won’t be reading it again anytime soon.