Corrigan’s third book (Lift, 2010, etc.) deals with the layered relationship between mother and daughter.
The glitter refers to her father, George, her cheerleader, “almost impossible to frustrate or disappoint.” The glue, her mother, Mary, with whom she had an “adversarial but functional” relationship, held things together with her pragmatism. After college, when Corrigan decided to go on a multicountry odyssey, her father responded, “Fantastic!” Her mother: “You should be using that money to get established, get your own health insurance, not traipse all over creation.” Ironically, it was Corrigan’s travels that led her to appreciate her mother’s point of view. The author ran out of money in Australia and took a job as a live-in nanny for a widower. John Tanner hired her to look after his two children while he traveled for his job as an airline steward, but it was a dysfunctional household: There was John, who seldom smiled; Martin, the open, affectionate 5-year-old; Milly, the resentful 7-year-old; Pop, their 84-year-old grandfather; and Evan, John’s grown stepson. “If this family were a poker hand, you’d fold,” writes Corrigan. “Without that middle card, it’s an inside straight, and those almost never work out.” Aside from a friendly flirtation with Evan, the action is internal as Corrigan called upon her mother’s directives to help her provide some stability for the family. The most affecting part of the narrative is her struggle to connect emotionally with Milly and her realization that “maybe the reason my mother was so exhausted all the time wasn’t because she was doing so much but because she was feeling so much.”
Written in a breezy style with humor and heart, the book reminds us how rewarding it can be to see a parent outside the context of our own needs. It's that illumination that allows Corrigan to turn what starts as a complaint about her mother into a big thank you.