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They Left Us Everything
Written by Plum Johnson
Published by Penguin Canada


 

Beautifully observed and written with great warmth and wit, They Left Us Everything is an absorbing memoir of grief, growth, and decluttering. Plum Johnson must deal not merely with the legacy of her difficult, ill-matched parents, but is handed the burden of disposing of the seemingly endless contents of their 23-room Lake Ontario home, which becomes a character on its own in the telling. The task, which she initially thinks manageable, proves Herculean, far more complex than she’d imagined, involving understanding her past and packing up its contents, both literal and metaphorical. A story of love, loss, and legacy, written with compassion and humour, it subtly evokes T.S. Eliot’s lines: “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”

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Publisher’s Summary: After almost twenty years of caring for elderly parents — first for their senile father, and 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.

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Plum Johnson

is an award-winning author, artist and entrepreneur living in Toronto. She was the founder of KidsCanada Publishing Corp., publisher of KidsToronto, and co-founder of Help’s Here! resource magazine for seniors and caregivers.