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Book Review: The Middle Place by Kelly Corrigan

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My father died when he was only 59, and Kelly Corrigan's memoir, The Middle Place, brings so many memories back about my relationship with him.  The book tells the story of the year Corrigan discovered she had breast cancer, but it's much more: it's the story of her relationship with her father, and of her fears for him when he has a recurrence of his cancer that same year.  It's a moving book, particularly for anyone who lost his or her parents at a young age.

Although Kelly Corrigan was in her late thirties, with a loving husband and two young daughters, she still defined herself as George Corrigan's only daughter. "Greenie," a loud, funny, Catholic man, adored his daughter, and his love was reciprocated. Kelly had two brothers, and a mother who loved her, but as the youngest child and only daughter she felt as if she were her father's princess.

In 2004 Kelly discovered a lump in her breast, and the diagnosis was breast cancer. For the first time she found herself in that "middle place,"  "that sliver of time when childhood and parenthood overlap," when you're still someone's child but also a parent. Kelly wanted her parents; at the same time she needed to help her young daughters through her own cancer.

It only became worse when her father was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Kelly had to try to live for her children and fight her own illness while railing against the cancer that now threatened her 74-year-old father's life and subjected him to difficult treatments.

The Middle Place is the story of a spoiled daughter who craved her father's attention. At the same time, it's about a woman growing into adult life and accepting her role as a wife and mother, and trying to leave the same kind of memories for her daughters that her father had given her. George Corrigan was a vital force in Kelly's life. Now she wanted to leave her own traces, evidence that she was once alive, memories for her children.

Kelly Corrigan's memoir moved me to laughter.  Sometimes, however, I wanted to slap her and tell her to grow up.  The story will provoke tears, laughter, and sometimes frustration. If you're a daughter who lost a father prematurely, for whatever reason, the book will evoke memories and longing.  The Middle Place brought back all of the memories and joy I shared with my own father.  Kelly Corrigan is a strong writer, and The Middle Place will resonate with readers.

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