They Left Us Everything

They Left Us Everything

A Memoir

Book - 2016
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"A warm, heartfelt memoir of family, loss, and a house jam-packed with decades of goods and 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 middle-aged knees with conflicted feelings of grief and relief. Now they must empty and sell the beloved family home, twenty-three 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"--
Publisher: New York :, G.P. Putnam's Sons,, 2016.
Edition: First G.P. Putnam's Sons edition.
ISBN: 9780399184093
Branch Call Number: 306.874 JO
Characteristics: 279 pages ; 22 cm


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
Oct 09, 2019

Our Monday Afternoon Book Club could have discussed this book for hours! Plum Johnson packed so much into one book about the highs and lows of settling her parents' estate. While dealing with the monumental task of cleaning out their 23 room house, she takes us back to when her parents first met and then through the decades of their relationship.

Dec 03, 2018

Every woman should read this book to know what to expect! for herself and the rest of the family. Reality can be hard to stomach and even harder to face. Emotions and "stuff" to clear in a big house full of furniture too massive for condo, precious books no one wants to buy, silverware worth hardly anything, old letters, souvenirs and regrets! (very good interviews with the author on the Web)

Oct 08, 2018

Very interesting story about the author's parents and their relationships with each other and their children. It made me cry a few times.

It makes me realize my life is pretty boring. At 26 their dad was in the British Navy and escaping from the Japanese and their mom was working as a war nurse. They met by a series of chance circumstances. They both have incredibly interesting backgrounds and are nothing alike.

One thing I loved was that the author doesn't downplay their faith, even if she doesn't share it.

It also made me want to go back to Ontario!

Sep 03, 2018

The Canadian author, Plum Johnson, cited a true history of her parents and siblings that was unique. They lived in a 23-room house and when her mother finally followed her father in death, it was Plum's self selected job to clean the place out. The problem: her mom never got rid of anything, so she had many years of items and memories to deal with. I know that the things she told about had to have been true, as I am a senior and recognized probably 90% of them from my youth. I recommend this book and have already told my siblings that it's an enjoyable read for "our type", plus upcoming generations. What a magnifying glass it provides, especially about finding out that historic documents and artifacts may be worth almost nothing when you go to sell them. Fun book.

0Charlie Feb 13, 2018

Having reached a certain age, this story resonated with me as my family prepares themselves for the inevitable loss of our aging parents. The claiming and clearing of the family "heirlooms" can be a difficult and contentious process for those left behind. This work was interesting and thought-provoking, suggesting ways for each family member to come to terms with their loss, understanding their place in the family, both in the past and moving forward. At just under 300 pages, it was an easy read. Recommended.

Jan 24, 2018

I found this book quite disturbing. Plum seems totally enamoured with her father who was a cruel and horrible man. The first chapter held so much promise but from there on it was such a sad story of a dysfunctional family that I wonder how anyone could enjoy it. The close relationship of the siblings is quite heartwarming.

Oct 31, 2017

After 20 years of caring for her elderly parents, the author feels only frustration and resentment. Although her brothers have helped, they haven't been there for the day-to-day slog. Her father died a few years earlier with Alzheimer's disease and her mother has just quietly died a few weeks after Christmas. Plum's American mother and English father settled in Canada as a compromise after World War II and a few years in Asian countries. Like so many of their Depression-era peers, nothing was ever thrown away. The author thinks it will only take her 6 weeks to clean out a 23-room house that's been occupied since 1952. Instead she embarks on a 16-month journey that includes grief, discovering her parents as people, and coming to terms with her often rocky relationship with her mother.

Oct 12, 2017

familiar with oakville ontario so trying to place house. good book, read it in 2 days. liked the history of the home and how much work it was to clear to sell. would recommend to read!

Jul 17, 2017

A very pleasant and thoughtful read. Anyone would enjoy this memoir but if you are in your Golden years or are taking care of someone in their Golden years, you will really relate to and enjoy this. It is a wonderful combination of funny, sad and interesting and it will leave you feeling reflective. Good book!

Mar 05, 2017

A poignant, beautifully-written memoir.

View All Comments


Add a Quote
Nov 04, 2015

"I know why I needed to spend so much time in this wasn't about untangling the stuff - it was about untangling myself from Mum. The clutter wasn't was mine."


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at APL

To Top