The Things Between Us (Paperback)

A Memoir

By Lee Montgomery

Free Press, 9781416543107, 239pp.

Publication Date: July 10, 2007

Other Editions of This Title:
Hardcover (8/1/2006)

List Price: 16.99*
* Individual store prices may vary.


The Montgomerys are among the last of a dying breed -- New England WASPs who effortlessly combine repression, flamboyant eccentricity, and alcoholism. Fragmented by drink and dysfunction, the family has not assembled in more than a decade. But when Big Dad, the patriarch, is diagnosed with stomach cancer, the siblings return to their childhood home, Four Corner Farm, to help their parents navigate the specialists, treatment options, pain management, and, most difficult of all, their own anguish.

Big Dad has always moved carefully through life, taking responsibility for the farm, the cars, the house, and his wife. The irrepressible Mumzy, now in her late seventies, drinks her first gin each day at 8:45 a.m. and spends her time singing jazz standards and reliving the glory days when she rescued horses from the now defunct hunt club. Prickly and proud, the two have always tried to keep their chins up, but Big Dad's cancer rattles their formidable denial.

Montgomery's stunning memoir vividly evokes the often unspoken bonds between family members -- bonds made of memory, love, and disappointment. Heartbreaking, lyrical, and frequently hilarious, The Things Between Us hums with a sense of wonder as the author discovers anew the most familiar people in her life, herself among them.

Praise For The Things Between Us: A Memoir

"Of the demons afflicting the well-heeled Montgomery family, the most obvious is cancer, ravaging the body of the author's beloved father. Equally insidious is alcohol: even at age seventy-eight [Montgomery's mother] begins the day with a cocktail. But the evil the author seems most interested in exorcising in this wrenching, unsentimental memoir is denial, the organizing principal of the family's life.... Montgomery's portrait of modern death is harrowing, but it's uplifting, too."

-- People

"A stunning addition to the literature of drunken mothers. Montgomery has a lovely, straightforward, trustworthy style. You like her utter lack of self-pity. You appreciate the absence of bitterness and judgment. There's no pretense of offering some grand lesson, other than love: Love as best as you can for as long as you can. That's all."

-- Los Angeles Times

"What Montgomery does, uncannily well, is to catch how normal an alcoholic family feels when you're in the midst of it. Montgomery has wrung an engrossing book from her eccentric (at best) childhood and the journey of reconnection she and her brother and sister take in the wake of their father's terminal diagnosis....Montgomery's greatest gift is to be able to describe her family clearly and unsentimentally but without cruelty. That's what allows us to laugh with the Montgomerys but certainly not to laugh at them. They're much too compelling for that."

-- O, The Oprah Magazine

"Most families have a black sheep. Montgomery's had a black hole -- her mother, a frustrated performer and prodigious drunk. So imagine Montgomery's surprise when she is called home to mount a death watch -- not for her Mumzy, but for her tight-lipped father, always something of a cipher for his children. Her memoir of a belatedly dutiful daughter, harrowing and inevitably heartbreaking, also manages to be scathingly funny."

-- The Boston Globe

"This is not just another memoir of alcoholism and family dysfunction -- this is the smartest, funniest, warmest, and most wicked of alcoholism and family dysfunction memoirs to come along in many years. Lee Montgomery paints flawed and aching people with a touching and lovely palette."

-- Anthony Swofford,author of Jarhead

"A monster mother, a beloved father, a trio of grown siblings who reunite to deal with a death in the family. The Things Between Us is unflinching and absolutely as fascinating as it is sad. It's also a scathing attack on the practice of medicine in America today and a perhaps inadvertent plea for us to rethink the role of hospice and our dying process."

-- Carolyn See, author of Making a Literary Life