They Left Us Everything

A Memoir

Publisher: Penguin Canada
Winner of the 2015 RBC Taylor Prize
Winner of the 2016 Forest of Reading® Evergreen Award™ 


A warm, heartfelt memoir of family, loss, and a house jam-packed with decades of memories.

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 have finally fallen to their knees with conflicted feelings of grief and relief. Now they must empty and sell the beloved family home, 23 rooms bulging with history, antiques, and oxygen tanks. Plum thought: How tough will that be? I know how to buy garbage bags.
     But the task turns out to be much harder and more rewarding than she ever imagined. Items from childhood trigger difficult memories of her eccentric family growing up in the 1950s and '60s, but unearthing new facts about her parents helps her reconcile those relationships, with a more accepting perspective about who they were and what they valued.
They Left Us Everything is a funny, touching memoir about the importance of preserving family history to make sense of the past, and nurturing family bonds to safeguard the future.


They Left Us Everything  DISCUSSION GUIDE

1. Why is the title ironic?

2. What are the major themes in the book? Which theme do you find the most compelling? Explain.

3. One of the reviewers called the house “a character in its own right.” Do you agree? How does the setting and...

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Toronto Star Canadian Non-Fiction Bestseller
Globe and Mail Canadian Non-Fiction Bestseller

“Beautifully observed and written with great warmth and wit. . . . A story of love, loss, and legacy, written with compassion and humour.” —RBC Taylor Prize jury citation
“[They Left Us Everything] is the kind of slum, unassuming memoir that hits you deep in the gut. . . . Amid the scraps of paper left in jacket pockets, family photos and pieces of furniture, part of the ‘everything’ our parents leave us with are our memories of them, good and bad. Perhaps figuring out what to do with them is as close to a manual for grief as we get.” —National Post