“The Middle Place is about calling home. Instinctively. Even when all the paperwork — a marriage license, a notarized deed, two birth certificates, and seven years of tax returns — clearly indicates you’re an adult, but all the same, there you are, clutching the phone and thanking God that you’re still somebody’s daughter.”

So yeah, those little blurbs on the book jacket are supposed to make you buy the book.  But I’m stronger than that.  Maybe for most books, but this one pulls you into a big bear hug, like I imagine the author herself would do if I met her on the street.

I’m a huge fan of memoirs of “regular” people, by which I mean not Burroughs or James Frey but instead people like  Judy Blunt, Alison Smith or Abigail Thomas.  Woman with complicatedly simple lives which they live with extraordinary ordinariness.  Real people.  With real problems. 

I read memoirs because they contain that spark of surprise – someone is like me!I like reading things that feel instinctually right, even though when I hear them in my own head I fear they are oftentimes weird or wrong.  Call it my need for external validation but to see oneself in another is comforting, no matter who you are.

I was drawn to Kelly herself, but more importantly I was also drawn (as she said I would be; she’s so smart) to her father, George.  He reminded me a lot of my late grandfather or at least how I like to remember him.  At least I know that my mother felt similarly about her parents, her kind, easy going and fun-loving father and her capable, tough and pragmatic mother.  As Kelly suggests, if you want to feel good or need twenty bucks, go see George.  If you want something done, go see her mother.   I remember thinking the same about my grandparents.  My grandfather always had candy, though he was diabetic.  My grandmother always had advice, usually of the unwanted variety.

While my relationships with my parents are quite different, I do feel Kelly’s need to be someone’s daughter.  To know, that even when you are a parent yourself, there is someone in your corner willing to help you out.  That you don’t need to have all the answers because someone else does.  She thinks of this as a delaying of growing up, of staving off adulthood.  But I think it gets to the heart of familial relationships.  It’s certainly hard for parents to see their children as adults, but I think perhaps it’s harder for children to see themselves as such.  It’s such a relief to let someone else take control, to know that someone else is in charge.  It’s a dynamic that all children and parents work through.

Kelly’s story of her family and her life is inspiring and I don’t say that lightly.  She’s a real person with real fears and needs and triumphs.  I won’t tell you any specifics, because I expect you to go out and read it.  Now.  Because it was with regret that I put down this book. 

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