THE MIDDLE PLACE

A Memoir

Kelly Corrigan

 For Kelly Corrigan, family is everything.

At thirty-six, she had a marriage that worked, a couple of funny, active kids, and a weekly newspaper column. But even as a thriving adult, Kelly still saw herself as George Corrigan’s daughter. A garrulous Irish-American charmer from Baltimore, George was the center of the ebullient, raucous Corrigan clan. He greeted every day by opening his bedroom window and shouting, “Hello, World!” Suffice it to say, Kelly’s was a colorful childhood, just the sort a girl could get attached to.

Kelly lives deep within what she calls the Middle Place—”that sliver of time when parenthood and childhood overlap”—comfortably wedged between her adult duties and her parents’

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 For Kelly Corrigan, family is everything.

At thirty-six, she had a marriage that worked, a couple of funny, active kids, and a weekly newspaper column. But even as a thriving adult, Kelly still saw herself as George Corrigan’s daughter. A garrulous Irish-American charmer from Baltimore, George was the center of the ebullient, raucous Corrigan clan. He greeted every day by opening his bedroom window and shouting, “Hello, World!” Suffice it to say, Kelly’s was a colorful childhood, just the sort a girl could get attached to.

Kelly lives deep within what she calls the Middle Place—”that sliver of time when parenthood and childhood overlap”—comfortably wedged between her adult duties and her parents’ care. But she’s abruptly shoved into a coming-of-age when she finds a lump in her breast—and gets the diagnosis no one wants to hear. And so Kelly’s journey to full-blown adulthood begins. When George, too, learns he has late-stage cancer, it is Kelly’s turn to take care of the man who had always taken care of her—and show us a woman as she finally takes the leap and grows up.

Kelly Corrigan is a natural-born storyteller, a gift you quickly recognize as her father’s legacy, and her stories are rich with everyday details. She captures the beat of an ordinary life and the tender, sometimes fractious moments that bind families together. Rueful and honest, Kelly is the prized friend who will tell you her darkest, lowest, screwiest thoughts, and then later, dance on the coffee table at your party.

Funny, yet heart-wrenching, The Middle Place is about being a parent and a child at the same time. It is about the special double-vision you get when you are standing with one foot in each place. It is about the family you make and the family you came from—and locating, navigating, and finally celebrating the place where they meet. It is about reaching for life with both hands—and finding it.

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  • Voice
  • Hardcover
  • January 2008
  • 272 Pages
  • 9781401303365

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About Kelly Corrigan

 Kelly Corrigan is, more than anything else, the mother of two young girls. While they’re at school, Kelly writes a newspaper column, the occasional magazine article, and possible chapters of a novel. She is also the creator of CircusOfCancer.org, a website to teach people how to help a friend through breast cancer. Kelly lives outside San Francisco with her husband, Edward Lichty.

Praise

The Middle Place is a memoir that reads like a novel and sings like an Irish tenor. When Kelly Corrigan writes, she makes you want to come home.” —Jacquelyn Mitchard, author of The Deep End of the Ocean and Still Summer

“For two days I ignored my family while I devoured Kelly Corrigan’s memoir, The Middle Place. I spent a good part of that time crying, but mostly I was laughing. In the tradition of the best memoirists (Anne Lamott and Anna Quindlen come to mind) she captures our hearts and teaches us something new about family, love, and yes, even death.” — Ayelet Waldman, author of Love and Other Impossible Pursuits

The Middle Place is inspiring, luminous, and true. Reading this memoir, I felt like an honorary member of the Corrigan family . . . Kelly Corrigan is a wonderful writer.” —Luanne Rice, author of What Matters Most

“Kelly Corrigan has a great sense of humor, an honest voice, and a brilliant way of telling it like it is—but that’s just for starters. It’s her heart that really counts. The Middle Place is a love letter to family and home and life.” —Linda Greenlaw, author of The Hungry Ocean and Slipknot

Discussion Questions

What is the effect of having the book structured as it is? Why do you think Kelly’s childhood is presented as flashbacks rather than chronologically? In what ways does her childhood affect her adult self?

What role does religion play in the Corrigan family? How do you think Kelly feels about her parents’ faith? About her own? What sorts of things does Kelly believe in?

How do you think Kelly feels about her mother? What does she seem to want from her and what does she actually get from her? What events cause her to see her mother differently over time?

How do Kelly’s parents help her to feel secure and protected as a child? How does that continue or fade in her adult life? Which of her parents does she emulate in her own role as a parent?

How does Kelly’s breast cancer diagnosis prepare her for her father’s cancer? Does her own experience help her to help her father, or does it hinder her ability to cope?

Given her attachment to her family, why do you think Kelly moves so far away from home at the age of twenty-five? Do you think families need to live physically close to one another to remain emotionally close? Why or why not?

Kelly plays the role of both patient and caretaker. How does being a patient change her? How does being a caretaker change her? Do you think having an illness matures Kelly? Does caring for her father?

Why do you think it is important for Kelly to travel in Australia and Nepal? What need does the act of traveling fill for her?

How does Kelly change when she becomes a parent? In what ways does she choose the family she’s created over the one that created her? Do you think is a common occurrence as we mature into adulthood? Discuss.

Do people need crisis—like the illness or death of a parent—to become full-fledged adults? Is it possible to outgrow childhood without losing a parent? In what ways do our parents keep us in the “child” role?

How does Kelly learn to be sick? How much help do you think she should have accepted from others, and how much should she explain and share with those trying to help? What are the benefits she finds from letting people be involved? How do Kelly’s attitudes about sickness differ from her father’s?

Kelly’s family is her safety net. She turns to them when she’s in trouble and they run to help. What are the safety nets in your life? What are the mainstays in your life that you can’t imagine living without?

What is “The Middle Place”? Why is this the title of this book? What does being in The Middle Place mean to Kelly? What does it mean to you?