Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Book Review (Audio): Lift, by Kelly Corrigan

Lift, by Kelly Corrigan
published 2010
Random House, Inc.  
read by Kelly Corrigan
1 hr., 30 mins (2 discs)

This is it, people.  This is the audiobook for People Who Don't Like (or Don't Think They Like) Audiobooks.  And for the People Who Never Tried Audiobooks But Want To.  And for those of us, like me, who love audiobooks.

For starters, it's short.  Like, only two discs short.  I scrutinized this at the library to make sure it a) wasn't abridged (it isn't) or missing a CD or two.  It's neither.  (The hardback version of the book is 89 pages.)

What Lift is, then, is a letter written by Kelly Corrigan to her two young daughters on the eve of a first day of school about what it means to be their mother.

"I don't know when you'll read this. Maybe when you're a teenager? No, probably later, when you're on the verge of parenthood and it occurs to you for the first time that someone has been loving you for that long. Maybe (let's hope not) you'll read it because something's happened to one of us-my cancer came back or Dad was reading a text going across the Bay Bridge and cars collided-and you want to piece together what it was like before. No matter when and why this comes to your hands, I want to put down on paper how things started with us."

While listening to this, I thought this would be a great audiobook to listen to with a mother and daughter in the car - like if you were en route to a vacation or on a trip to visit a college. (With it only being 1 and a half hours long, the eye-rolling will barely have stopped by the time the CD does.) 

Corrigan writes that she "heard once that the average person barely knows ten stories from childhood and those are based more on photographs and retellings than memory. So even with all the videos we take, the two boxes of snapshots under my desk, and the 1,276 photos in folders on the computer, you'll be lucky to end up with a dozen stories. You won't remember how it started with us, the things that I know about you that you don't even know about yourselves. We won't come back here. ....

You'll remember middle school and high school, but you'll have changed by then. You changing will make me change. That means you won't ever know me as I am right now-the mother I am tonight and tomorrow, the mother I've been for the last eight years, every bath and book and birthday party, gone. It won't hit you that you're missing this chapter of our story until you see me push your child on a swing or untangle his jump rope or wave a bee away from his head and think. Is this what she was like with me?"

In Lift, Corrigan writes of the heart-stopping experience of her daughter Claire contracting viral meningitis.  You can hear her voice crack slightly when recalling a young teenage relative, Aaron, killed in a car accident and the emotion that such an event conjures up when relating to her own children. She starts at the beginning, with her gratitude of not having to go through infertility issues like many of her friends. "Dad and I were lucky, if lucky is a big enough word for it. Another way of putting it is that we were spared years of torment. Here's a third way of saying it: I've had cancer twice and if I had to pick one fate for you, cancer or fertility problems, I'd pick cancer."

(Gah! I nearly slammed on my brakes when I heard that. I mean, I've had infertility. Oh, yes indeedy, I have. Never knock wood had cancer. Not quite sure which of those two evils I'd pick there, much less as fates for my kids. Whuh.)

I also need to add that there are five songs by musician Mike Errico included throughout the narration of the book. Now, some people are turned off by music in audiobooks and I am usually one of them, but I really enjoyed these songs. I wasn't familiar with Mr. Errico's music before listening to this but I can see myself listening to more. I especially liked "Someday," "When She Walks By," and "Count to Ten," and the lyrics complement the book nicely, which makes sense because Kelly Corrigan personally selected them for the audiobook. Don't let the inclusion of music be a deterrent to your decision whether to give this a try.

I've read a lot of parenting memoirs and articles, and a lot of them are a bit treacly for my taste.  I've said before on this blog that I don't think I am a typical mom. While I love my children and always have and will, I am not one who dives headfirst into this mothering gig, volunteering for every classroom activity, arranging one playdate after another, gleefully creating glitter-laden crafts. Nuh-uh, not me.  Like Kelly Corrigan, I am that mom whose automatic response to everything is "no" and who oftentimes wants to say "yes."

Lift isn't a saccharine parenting/mommy memoir, but it is definitely a feel-good book. It's ... well, uplifting. For me, there's something about this memoir that has the ability to give one a lift, to see someone else who is admittedly not perfect and who has gone through difficult struggles and who is undoubtedly, wholeheatedly appreciative of her children.  I know there are other similar "letters-to-my-children" types of books that attempt to do this, but for me, this one particularly resonated for some reason.

Maybe it has to do with what I'd imagine inspired the title.

Corrigan writes that she was talking with a close friend, an avid hang-gliding enthusiast.  He explains that in hang-gliding, you have to go through turbulance in order to gain the lift you need to soar higher.

I just love that image, that metaphor. It captures so much of our experience as parents to Betty and Boo. If you too have been struck by or reflected on "the pace and vulnerability in raising children," perhaps this book or audio might be for you too.

Here's a great video of Kelly Corrigan reading Lift to her daughters, Georgia and Claire, and talking a bit about the book.

Mike Errico's website is here and YouTube links to the music that is included on Lift are here:

Count to Ten:
Ever Since:
When She Walks By:

And here's What Other Bloggers Thought:

Book Club Girl
Booking Mama
Chick with Books
Lesa's Book Critiques

copyright 2010, Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy, The Betty and Boo Chronicles) If you are reading this on a blog or website other than The Betty and Boo Chronicles or via a feedreader, this content has been stolen and used without permission.


JoAnn said...

I was thinking of listening to this one, but your mention of college visits convinced me. That's exactly what we'll be finishing up this summer! Off to audible to add it to the list...

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

And I was thinking of you when I wrote that line, JoAnn. Truly.

DemMom said...

Did she write The Middle Place? I think she went to the Univ of Richmond with some friends of mine. I want to listen to this book. It'll get me to work, 90 minutes.

Melissa (Betty and Boo's Mommy) said...

DemMom ~ yes, The Middle Place is her first book. How neat that she went to school with some of your friends! I think that you will especially really like this one. (Have a tissue handy when she is talking about her daughter in the hospital with meningitis.)

christa @ mental foodie said...

I read this earlier this year and it was just so-so for me. Perhaps I should have listened to the audio. But really I think it's just a book I'd appreciate more if I am a parent. My review: (

Booksnyc said...

what a great metaphor - going through turbulence in order to get the lift to soar - meaningful beyond parenting, I would expect.

Thanks for a great review!