Off the Bucket List: The Middle Place, by Kelly Corrigan

When a really good friend gives you a book for your birthday, you interrupt your queue and read it.

And that’s how Kelly Corrigan’s “The Middle Place” finally came off my bucket list.

It doesn’t matter that it was published 13 years ago — it could have been written yesterday. Memoirs about families and the myriad challenges that come along with growing up are like that — timeless. As is Corrigan’s narrative here. It’s relatable, and it’s touching.

I don’t know about you, but I often find myself considering the entirety of perspective when I read a memoir. The author’s, mine, the world … what one person’s view of anything is can be radically different depending on circumstance. I don’t know if that was Corrigan’s intent with this story, but the theme of “perspective” is woven in so neatly, it’s almost as if she’s whispering to your subsconscious.

I think about Corrigan’s frustration she experienced as a young adult (oh to be young again and think we are the center of everyone’s world!), in being so revved up to share all the colorful details of her year abroad when she first gets home, only to learn that what she thought was so important wasn’t the explicit focus of everyone back at home. Or being on the other side of a conversation in which she is empathetic to the fact that a long-ago connection is going to feel really bad about commenting on her hairstyle when that person discovers the reason for it.

Then there’s reader perspective — the kind you apply to your own similar relationships when reading someone else’s life story. How do their experiences line up with yours? What can you learn from their story that you can apply accordingly?

And then that global perspective, that as much as I’d like to hold fast to it forever, will last a short while, dissipate and return the next time I read a memoir — that grace in understanding that your world is not everyone else’s world. That what you see on social media, for example, isn’t necessarily a clear-eyed view into someone else’s life at that moment. The humility in recognizing that for as many people you may be jealous of and desirous for what they are sharing out publicly, there are likely as many people jealous of what you already have.

Corrigan’s storytelling is sweet and sad and immersive — and as much as I tried to slow down with occasional pauses (because I knew someone was going to die and I just didn’t want that to happen) I kept picking it back up because Corrigan does a fantastic job drawing you in to her life and connecting with the reader.

I’m just sorry I waited so long to read this. Thank goodness for great friends.

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