Author Plum Johnson won the 2015 RBC Taylor Prize, for her book They Left Us Everything: A Memoir. As the winner of this annual award, which celebrates excellence in Canadian literary non-fiction, she received $25,000. Since receiving this award, Johnson has been on what appears to be a whirlwind of non-stop events, to further promote her book. With this said, I recently attended her June 18th book reading; which was hosted in a small room at a local community library. While at the reading, I noticed that I appeared to be the only non-retiree in the room. Further, once Johnson started to talk, from the looks on the faces of many of those in attendance, it was easy to deduce that she was re-telling their stories.

In her memoir, Johnson described the process of moving out to Oakville, after her parents died, to clear out her rambling 23-room childhood home, that her parents had not de-cluttered in over 65 years.  I believe that her story resonated, because most of those in the room had either gone through the same experience or were about to. Then again, aging parents, familial relationships, and facing our own mortality are very common and often gripping life themes.

When asked what she took away from this experience, Plum noted that by leaving all their things behind (i.e. diaries, letters, photos, etc.) her parents had essentially left her and her siblings a gift – the gift of getting to see the “real” people behind the parental roles. She then went on to suggest that she will also leave her things behind, thus allowing her kids to find out who she “truly” was –  for better or worse.


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