Kelly Corrigan’s memoir Glitter and Glue connects the dots of the mother/daughter relationship from the viewpoint of one who was first a daughter and then a mother. Readers who have been either will find much in common. Readers who have been both will find themselves switching between the two roles.
As Kelly begins reading My Antonia, a novel which will season the story in her memoir, she talks about books becoming more about what the reader brings to the book than about what the author meant for it to say. I found the idea fit as I made my own connections of being both a daughter with a mother and a mother with a daughter.
My first connection came via Kelly’s world-traveling adventure with her college roommate since I have a granddaughter traveling Europe and now South America following her graduation from college. That connection was fleeting since I would never have the courage for a journey with so many uncertainties.
My second connection, much stronger and lingering throughout the book, is the quote from which the title is taken. When she was a teenager, her mother told her, “Your father’s the glitter, but I’m the glue.” Neither her mother nor mine was the kind to be best friends with her daughter. Instead, as that glue, they formed the safe haven that comes with consistent standards of behavior and an unchanging presence. Her father filled a role that recalled a statement I made when my own father died, “I’ve lost the president of my fan club.”
Her reference to “the voice I hear in my head for the rest of my life,” conjured up times I have heard from friends or said myself, “I opened my mouth and heard my mother’s voice coming out.” Like Kelly, some of those were words I had sworn I would never repeat.
As I read the book, I connected as both mother and daughter. Still, I wavered back and forth with ways they were not at all like my relationship with either my mother or my daughter. The final blow came when she quoted her mom to her children, “Life’s not fair,” words my children have threatened to put on my tombstone.
This is a book for mothers, daughters, and perhaps for curious men who would like to understand that special relationship.