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They Left Us Everything: A Memoir
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They Left Us Everything: A Memoir

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  3,797 ratings  ·  626 reviews
After almost twenty years of caring for elderly parents—first for their senile father,and then for their cantankerous ninety-three-year-old mother—author Plum Johnson and her three younger brothers experience conflicted feelings of grief and relief when their mother, the surviving parent, dies.

Now they must empty and sell the beloved family home, which hasn't been de-clut
Paperback, 288 pages
Published March 18th 2014 by Penguin Canada
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Laurie I agree,I am going thru the grief process too,it was quite cathartic. I live on the WNY border of Canada,so I enjoyed the local part of it.This book s…moreI agree,I am going thru the grief process too,it was quite cathartic. I live on the WNY border of Canada,so I enjoyed the local part of it.This book seemed to fall in my lap,just at the right time.(less)

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Average rating 3.84  · 
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 ·  3,797 ratings  ·  626 reviews

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Jul 10, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. They Left Us Everything is an odd little memoir. The author recounts the year following her mother's death, during which she lived in her childhood home going through her parents' things and preparing the house for sale. The memoir focuses on far more than the physical act of sorting through stuff -- she dwells on parts of her mother's life, her own childhood and her relationship with her mother. The book is odd because we jump right into the author's situation with little background ...more
Feb 20, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: first-reads, memoir
I received this book as the result of a Goodreads giveaway.

This was a hard book to set down. It was the equivalent of sitting up late at night with a dear friend who was caught between reminiscing and grieving. I did not ever feel this was a woe is me book, which some memoirs dealing with loss can feel like, but more of a testament to what an adult can feel about their parents once they are gone. A memoir about finding oneself along with who their parents were.

I did find it a refreshing look ba
Jun 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: old-houses
So here's an interesting concept -- instead of clearing out our possessions before we die, author Plum Johnson urges us to leave everything for our children to sort -- on the grounds that it will lead them to better understand our lives!

That's what happened when her own parents died, leaving a massive house full of "stuff" ranging from valuable antiques to pockets full of used Kleenex! It took her about a year to sift everything, and her personal journey through the lives of her parents made he
I received this ebook from First to Read for an honest review. Thank you to the author, publisher and First to Read for this opportunity.

I really don't read a lot of non-fiction books. I requested this one based on the title and cover. I knew nothing about it as I started reading because I didn't read the blurb about it. I am so thankful I requested and received this book. I read it in less than a day and absolutely loved it.

Plum knows how to weave a story to make you feel as though you are livi
Kasa Cotugno
What a pleasure to read an affectionate book about family dealing with the problem of dismantling the home they were raised in and in which their mother continued to live until her death. Like Plum Johnson and her four brothers, many of us have been faced with this wrenching situation. Plum, being the oldest and most able to do so, volunteers to spend six weeks at the house getting things in order. She figures, how hard can it be to buy some trash bags and roll up her sleeves? She wasn't prepare ...more
Sylvia Valevicius
Jul 15, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoir
The author states: 'My six-week plan to sort through clutter has taken sixteen months.'(p.266)

This award-winning memoir took me four days (with the necessary interruptions of life) to read. It was a classic case of, 'I couldn't put it down.'

This book is so much MORE than cleaning clutter from an old house. It is a fascinating book with a history of a fascinating family. The house is like a museum: people lived and died in the house. The house held the joys and sorrows of an extended family of me
May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
This house is so big I realize I'll need a master plan for clearing it out. I can't afford to get emotional. There are twenty-three rooms, so if I get caught up in the rigging, I'll go down with the ship.

They Left Us Everything – the first book ever written by the 68-year-old Plum Johnson – recently won the RBC Taylor Prize for Non-fiction for 2015, and when I heard of it, I was intrigued to discover what an award-winning-late-in-life-first-time-author would sound like, and I was delighted b
Aug 19, 2016 rated it liked it
At the end of our lives, we become only memories.If we're lucky,someone is passing those down."

An absolutely beautiful memoir about the love and lessons learned from our parents. I laughed and I cried a few times while reading this book and I suppose it makes me a little lost for words. Well worth the read!
Apr 22, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
I absolutely loved this book. I thought it would be a lot sadder than it was, but ultimately, it was uplifting. When Plum Johnson's mother finally dies, Plum and her brothers have to sell the house, go through everything and reminisce. They learn a lot about their family and themselves in the process. THis was a very thoughtful, thought provoking and beautifully written book.

This won the RBC Taylor prize for non-fiction and was the author's first book. She published it at the age of 68. Way to g
Amanda McGill
Apr 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2020
Really enjoyed reading about the author's parents and their life stories. I wish there was more emotions coming from the author. ...more
I loved this book. I don't usually read memoirs but this one struck a chord with me. The premise seemed fascinating to me...a woman loses her parents and then finds herself facing the task of emptying their 23 room house and preparing it for sale. It seemed daunting to me...I'm finding it difficult to clean out my attic and purge my own things. And I still have both of my parents.

The book is Canadian, the house is still (I hope) in Oakville. The author won and award for her book...the RBC Taylo
Jan 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This book hits especially close to home for me. And in some ways has helped me start the mental prep for a scary eventuality.
Chihoe Ho
Feb 15, 2014 rated it it was ok
There is something about "They Left Us Everything" that is both endearing and disconnected. Plum Johnson comes from a family with a fascinating history - her ancestors and father are all sorts of historic figures, her family has travelled across lands and grew up with various cultures (one being of mine on the Malay archipelago) - and a family home that has been a part of Johnson's and her siblings' lives.

"I realize that Mum was the house, and all this time she's been speaking to me," and that i
Aug 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, 2016
A thoughtful book for me having emptied my childhood home a number of years ago when my mother died. Now we have downsized and our family home was passed on to a young family. Our sons now have their own homes and have never shared this smaller home with us, and I attempt valiantly to keep the clutter under control so the job of "dispersal" is not as monumental as the one described in the book. A Point 'o View that gives me pause. ...more
Nov 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Compulsively readable. Poignant in its ability to be simultaneously uplifting and bittersweetly-heartbreaking. A beautiful memoir about how we all come together to grieve differently and separately for people that we have loved differently and separately.


Feb 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
Actual star rating: 3 1/2 stars.

My mother died in the fall of 2011; my father on the last day of the year 2014. Between those years my father moved into a dementia care facility and my siblings and I cleared their belongings from their home, each of us taking the things that meant something to us. By some process I became the person to whom the archives -- papers, letters, photographs, scrapbooks -- came. I am nowhere close to even opening the things on the tops of all those piles, as each time
Terri Durling
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. Although it revolves around a very difficult subject, that of dealing with sickly elderly parents and the aftermaths of their deaths, it is done in such a manner as to help the reader navigate through the stress and turmoil adult children experience as caregivers and orphans. Plum does a remarkable job detailing her difficult relationship with her parents, and in particular, her mother-daughter relationship as the first child and only daughter of two eccentric and very differe ...more
Sep 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I did not want this to end! So well-written and captivating from cover to cover!

Plum shares her experiences and memories of going through her parents home where she lived for most her childhood. Her parents lived in a very grand home in Toronto and never got rid of anything. Once they both passed away, it was up to Plum and her three brothers to relive their childhood and go through everything their parents had left behind.

Plum effortlessly blends past and present, recalling memories triggered b
Candice Putnam
Apr 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is the kind of book that you will appreciate more if you talk about it with others, as it will inevitably bring up memories and stories from your own family history that are fun/important to share and think about. A great book club book for sure.
Jun 19, 2017 added it
A well crafted memoir about family, and eccentric parents, and life. And a 23-room house that has to be cleared out when the author's mother dies (in her 90s). Full of vivid details (the kind I used to tell my students bring a book alive for the reader) and pithy observations on human nature. ...more
Oct 08, 2017 rated it liked it
This is a quiet book that describes the conflict one feels with respect to our parents from the perspectives we have of them: as children, as adults, as caretakers and finally as mourners. I appreciated but didn't expect to be able to relate to this so much. ...more
Sara Joseph
May 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a beautifully written account of the complex emotions tied to saying goodbye to good parents. It helped me cherish my parents even more while I still have them, and reminds me of the brevity of life. How important it is to savor every precious moment!
Sarah Coller
This was an unexpected 5-star read for me. I received this in a box of books that had made its rounds through several states, each friend along the way putting in a few biographies/memoirs and taking out a few. As I went through the box last week, this one stood out to me and I set it aside to begin that night. I am SO glad I did---it really spoke to me.

My own mother's mother died at the very young (and getting younger all the time) age of 49. I was 7 years old and my mother was 30. I had no per
Janet Hutchinson
Jan 09, 2021 rated it really liked it
Having done the clean out of the family home this book certainly resonated with me. Cleaning up and sorting through 60 years of memories certainly gave me pause for reflection. My relationship with my mother was not nearly as difficult as hers was, however the sorting and division of family things (heirlooms or not) always brings with it emotions, some good, some sad. The things you learn as you sort through letters, pictures, books, treasures gives insight into your parents that you don’t get w ...more
Oct 24, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Torn between 3 and 4 - it's a 3.5 : ) Eminently readable. ...more
Laurie • The Baking Bookworm
I went into this book thinking it would be an emotional journey of an adult daughter and her experience as the caregiver to her ailing, elderly parents. Johnson writes well and helped me gained insight into the struggles of baby boomers who face caring for elderly parents, sometimes for decades. She also highlights the relationship between mother and daughter which can sometimes teeter-totter between loving and tempestuous.

Unfortunately, I didn't feel quite the emotional impact which so many ot
Feb 18, 2014 rated it really liked it
I received a copy of this from a publisher's rep. It was on a table with others and I thought it looked interesting - it was a wonderful pick! I enjoyed this story from several different angles - as a genealogist and family history enthusiast, as a librarian and as a daughter. When I started reading I was a little disappointed because it seemed to gloss over a lot of details that I would have liked to have known but as I got further into the book I realized that the story was filling in as she t ...more
Mar 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
As a person with elderly parents who still seem to think yardsales are great and have a house bursting I could relate to this. I also liked how she showed that a lot of our turmoil about things or in our lives is really not about the stuff, but what the stuff reminds us of and our own battles with our own self and and the choices we have made.

While I don't think I am a sentimental or emotional about things as the author I am glad that I have her experience to draw on so I know that it is okay to
Aug 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Great book. A daughter's memory walk through her relationship with her mother as she deals with her mother's belongings after her death. ...more
Nov 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Wonderful re-read for book club. Still enjoyed. Good discussion that I didn't have the first time as I didn't discuss it with anyone. ...more
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Oakville Reads: * Questions for Plum Johnson 36 72 Jul 31, 2015 07:29AM  
Oakville Reads: * Question #4: Leaving everything 12 27 Jul 31, 2015 06:50AM  
Oakville Reads: * Field trip to Point O'View 14 24 Jul 24, 2015 10:04AM  
Oakville Reads: Question #2: Themes of the Book 5 26 Jul 15, 2015 01:51PM  
Oakville Reads: Question #1: Point O' View 15 41 Jul 08, 2015 11:08AM  

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Plum Johnson is an award-winning author, artist and entrepreneur living in Toronto. She was the founder of KidsCanada Publishing Corp., publisher of KidsToronto, and co-founder of Help’s Here! resource magazine for seniors and caregivers.

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