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They Left Us Everything

Winner of the 2015 RBC Taylor Prize for Nonfiction

Finalist for the 2016 OLA Evergreen Award

Shortlisted for the 2015 Kobo Emerging Writer Prize for Nonfiction

Longlisted for the 2015 Leacock Medal for Humor


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45 responses to “Home

  1. ken demerling

    loved the book………….and I thought my father was strict!

  2. Roberta Lalonde

    Wonderful book. Such an interesting life. I could live in that house.

  3. Carolyn Acker

    Thank you so much Plum Johnson. I just finished your book and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. You are a lovely writer and describe such a wonderful family life with all its ups and downs on the beautiful shores of Lake Ontario.

  4. Jane Grady

    Just finished your wonderful book…it made me laugh and cry. Thank you for sharing your story. I will be passing it on to my sisters and friends.

  5. carol

    Am reading your memoir. My brother was your furniture appraiser( the one you liked), what an absolutely wonderful account of your family…written with such warmth, humour and a softness of heart through it all. It made me cry and made me laugh out loud……I do hope it brings you comfort and joy to have written this….I just love it!

  6. Frances Jones

    I read this book non-stop under piles of blankets on the sleeping porch of my late parents’ house of 50 years. I am in the process of sorting, emptying and selling it while finally turning (I hope) into an actual adult.

    By thoughtfully providing me with this book with such excellent timing, Plum Johnson has joined a precious group of my friends who have helped me through this shockingly profound and disorienting process, which she describes so flawlessly that I could finish her sentences as I read.

    So to Plum, I am extremely grateful for the company, support, insight and optimism of your words. Thank you thank you thank you.

  7. Patricia Dawn Robertson

    Congratulations on making the Taylor Prize short list. I just spent two weeks pre-decluttinering at my 80 year old mum’s condo. Can’t wait to read They Left Us Everything now that it’s hit my radar.

  8. Liz Bollmann

    Thank you for “They Left Us Everything.” It’s said that what you need, finds you. I needed your book at this point in my life. I have just finished clearing my mom’s apartment as she is now in a care facility. In 2003, we cleared the family home and many of the family history letters and papers that needed to be sorted, moved to her apartment. “I need to sort this stuff” was my mom’s mantra but now it has come to reside at my apartment. Reading your book has given me the courage I needed to start on my own ‘sorting’ journey.

  9. Lynne Ball

    Loved the book so very much. So sorry to be finished, but it will be passed around and read by many. This Oakville girl appreciated the sharing of the story, and the family. So many common threads!…

  10. Mary Davidson

    I have just purchased 4 copies of your book to give as gifts to my daughter, daughter in law, friends for thier daughters! It really made an impact on me-I was not there to look after my aging mother and father – and the guilt is with me still – no matter what anyone tries to tell you, it matters that we care for those we love as best we can and you did that in spades! You have written with humour and insight, brava for sharing those details of family life and taking the time to discover your parents history.

  11. Kris

    Thank you for sharing your gift. So many memories and connections for me growing up in Halton and now live in B.C.

  12. Paula Simmons

    Until I read it, I thought that I should de clutter my place before I die or else my kids would hate me forever. Happy to feel differently now that I have read it. Thank you for addressing issues we all might experience….sooner or later.

    • Joan Knighton

      I agree.I will not purge so much as planned My kids will be able to find out who I really am when I m gone!!
      I so loved your book Plum. Thx so much for writing it
      My husband is reading it now and loves it too
      I walk a baby in Oakville once a week. I have been walking by your homestead and wondering about it!!! Last week I looked closer and knew I had found Point O View. I was full of emotion. I paid my respects to your dear brother and your fabulous parents!
      Be well. Sincerely, Joan Knighton , Hamilton

  13. Christine sproviero

    What a beautifully written memoir. I could not put this book down. It will become one of my favorite books…along with Glass Castles by Jeanette Walls.

  14. Marianne/Robert Hawthorne

    Congratulations on winning the Taylor Prize. I have lived in Oakville 55+years so many of your experiences in Oakville as a small Town are known (and dear) to me as well as the contraversial issues surrounding your parents legacy. I too was a daughter and caregiver to elderly parents and parents in law and do thank you for sharing your story which means a great deal to any family member who has to take on such a responsibility.
    Keeping family close to your heart, sharing experiences and giving love as much as possible while living seems to me the main lesson to take away from this wonderful book.

  15. Renate van der Griend

    Hi Plum Your book is everything,I see my own family,who moved to Oakville in 1953 with 7 children,Our Mum and Dad,My heart is so touched by your book,siblings parents,occasions,church weddings funerals.but above all Love,congratulations,it is the most beautiful book i have ever read,my sister,who belongs to the Oakvi;le hysterical Society send it to me,

  16. Leslie Mercer

    Such a lovely warm read that made me laugh and cry. I loved visiting with your family and missed them when I finished your book. Congratulations on the Taylor Prize!!

  17. Gloria Bartlett

    thank you for a fantastic read, I have had the task of clearing 2 homes (parents & inlaws) holding on to many family treasures, now my kids will have the task of sorting through 3 generations, hope they appreciate it as much as you & your siblings. Congratulations on winning the RBC award.

  18. Barbara

    I just finished your book. It was just wonderful. Congratulations on the RBC Award. Very well deserved. I cannot put into words what reading your book has meant to me. I have been struggling with the death of my parents for quite some time. They passed away 2weeks apart well into their 80’s. Very thankful for everything they gave us.

  19. Carol Joan Rogers

    Hello Plum I am slowing down reading your book because I don’t want it to end. I just ordered 5 copies for my two brothers and three friends. We have been through this with our splendid parents who had a big life, a romance in wartime, and lots of stuff and history left behind. They died in 2011 and 2012 leaving us to decide what to do with it all, two brothers and a sister. Your book captures a great deal of our experience, though your devotion and creative response to your task take my breath away. Write more please Plum! PS my Boyer cousins grew up in the old Bush House in Oakville in the late 50’s and 60’s so I can picture your environment. Carol Rogers

  20. Gino Nicolini P.Eng.

    Hi Plum….I saw your interview with Steve the other night and was captivated with the storyline….I just lost my mom just over a month ago… up here in Ottawa.and I will pick up your book ….and give it a read….I will share some comments in due course….Best regards and Congratulations on your work. Gino…

  21. Brenda J

    Wow. What a beautiful journey of your life in words, Plum. I was transfixed by your story of your home and family. I am a convert now! I’ll promise to think twice about rushing and purging the memories of my parents’ and in-laws’ house. Thank you for the many threads of clarity you have given me!

  22. Michelle

    I loved every word. Thank you for sharing your family with us and thank you for writing such a beautiful book. It made me laugh it made me cry and it made me think about the past and the future.

  23. It is a rare thing for me to have a book captivate and resonate with me as strongly as this one did. I borrowed a copy (which I read in one sitting), but will order my own so that I can go back to it as needed.
    I delighted in the flow of your words, laughed and cried at your memories (which triggered my own – my dad said the very same thing about penicillin and mouldy bread!), and your insights.
    Despite different backgrounds, there are so many similarities that I could have been reading my own memoir. My own parents (both immigrants to Canada) clashed frequently throughout their 54 year marriage; I have 3 younger brothers (one passed away at age 41); we grew up on the shores of a lake; and so on.
    Congratulations on winning the RBC Taylor Prize – very well deserved. It is a powerful work.

  24. It is a rare thing for me to have a book captivate and resonate with me as strongly as this one did. I borrowed a copy (which I read in one sitting), but will order my own so that I can go back to it as needed.
    I delighted in the flow of your words, laughed and cried at your memories (which triggered my own – my dad said the very same thing about penicillin and mouldy bread!), and your insights.
    Despite different backgrounds, there are so many similarities that I could have been reading my own memoir. My own parents (both immigrants to Canada) clashed frequently throughout their 54 year marriage; I have 3 younger brothers (one passed away at age 41); we grew up on the shores of a lake; and so on.
    Congratulations on winning the RBC Taylor Prize – very well deserved. It is a powerful work.

  25. Kim

    Your book was captivating. What a wonderful legacy you have given to your family to pass down through the years. I couldn’t put it down!

  26. Gail Prior

    Loved your memoir, the stories and the title says it all! Thanks for sharing.

  27. leah

    Thank you for this beautiful book: thank you for allowing me to enter your family and get to know your parents and brothers and you, and inhabit that wonderful house so full of life. I felt a real pang of nostalgia as I turned the last page.

  28. Murray Munn

    Man, I just adored this book. I used to work at the local library, and ordered lots of books before I quit, including this one. When it arrived and I got the robot message it was awaiting me, just another patron, I almost didn’t borrow it, feeling I ordered it for others to read, not or my own life … Yet I did go ahead and borrow it. I have an incomplete song called or themed “Nostalgia for Nothing” (I spend a lot of time reading about English ‘cottages’ or famous Canadian authors’ creative spots such as Al Purdy’s cabin), and it wonders how others’ lives and walls can still echo in my own life… but they can and do. Our own past houses are never so grand and are long fallen out of our possession, and nor did we have any amazing antiques. But we did find surprises when dad died and there are innumerable other similarities. A really pleasing read and even the rag-paper feel (albeit on a glue-bound book) complemented the text. Well done!

  29. Mark

    Man I just whizzed through this book. It was great and my family can totally relate. Keep up the good work.

  30. Murray Munn

    And I have a recommendation: The Illuminations by Andrew O’Hagan.

  31. Hello Plum, I just finished reading They Left Us Everything and thoroughly enjoyed it. Your story is heartwarming and very interesting. I was happy to get an insight into your family life. It was a book that I did not want to finish reading because parts of it made me laugh and parts of it made me feel a bit sad, but finish it I did and delighted to have read it. Congratulations on a wonderful book!

  32. peggy topple

    Thank you Plum for writing such an interesting memoir,They Left Us Everything. I heard your interview on CBC radio awhile back and knew I had to read your book. I requested your book with my local library and through interlibrary loads, it finally became available to me a couple of weeks ago. I read the book twice, this past week – hated to put it down. I want my adult children to read it and I will no longer worry about what I am leaving behind when the day comes that I pass from this world. What a privilege to learn more about our loved ones through their wealth of history. I have many long letters from my maternal grandmother from over 40 years ago that I cherish. She was my window to what my Mother was like in her younger years. Please keep writing. You are an amazing author.

  33. FraniaBanks

    Just completed reading your heartwarming, sad and happy, book ‘They Left Us Everything’. I am presently decluttering and offering our home for sale after 47+ years and two children. My husband passed away over 5 years ago and it is time for me to move on. I was able to relate to many of your ups and down, emotions all over the place (at times thinking you are going crazy) and many of the wonderful happy moments as well.
    I was originally from Burlington and in late teen/twenties worked in Oakville, so I knew Oakville well. In addition I met my husband in Oakville so attended many ball games ,etc. there. Have many fond memories of all
    You have shared some very personal happy and sad times and I thank you for doing that; I am sure it was, at times, hard to do and yet I am sure it was also a way to release a lot of pent up emotions from years and years of growing up.
    Thank you for writing this profound book. I laughed, I cried but I could not put it down. I so related to everything in this great book. If I come across you reading at any location close to where I am, I will surely be out to that event.
    You are your mother and for that I am sure you are grateful. Thank you again.

  34. Joan MacDonald

    Loved the book and your family, flaws and all, and appreciate your honesty about the trials and tribulations of family life… could definitely relate. I used to live in Oakville and walked by your house at least 5-6X a week. So wonderful now to know its story due to your generosity and talent in sharing it with us. Great book and thank you, Plum!
    Joan MacDonald

  35. Dear Ms. Johnson,
    Friday evening I walked into the bookstore. I was drawn to your book as if by some unexplained force or magnetism. I purchased your book and began reading Saturday morning, and read non-stop. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, memories, and wonderful family history. With aging parents, I am approaching this next phase in life, knowing that “life as I know it now, will never be the same.” Thank you for sharing your ability to work, see, live, and move through these phases of your life. When I fell caught or trapped, I will remember to look up at the clouds and witness their movement and constant change.

  36. Willow Hobson

    Thank you Plum! I’ve just been on a journey remembering my wonderful mother while reading about yours. Laughed and cried also and especially loved the part about your Mom wanting to shop and what a job it was to get Mom into the mall, get her seated by the door, go to the wheel chair kiosk, leave your keys as collateral, take Mom shopping so that she could look and feel everything in The Bay and then reverse the whole procedure — what a workout!
    Thank you for sharing and I’ll be giving your book to many friends who have/or are going to be going through the same themselves.

    Willow Hobson, August 16, 2015

  37. Hello, I just this minute completed the book. I loved it! I lost my Mom 7 years ago and my father this past March. We are in the process of going through the house, splitting items between siblings and wondering what the heck to do with the rest! 🙂 I found many similarities to what you have gone through. The closer it gets to putting up the For Sale sign on the front lawn, the more I become attached to a home that meant nothing to me 6 months ago. Thank you for letting me know it will be ok.

  38. Clare Christie

    Dear Plum,
    You do feel “dear” to me after sharing so much of yourself in “They Left…”.
    I read it in about 36 hours, here at our retreat at Lake Torment, Nova Scotia.
    I woke up the morning of the day we left with brain fog from too much wheat, not to mention sweets and alcohol. “They Left…” was perfect. It had just arrived from a friend who visited just before our busy two weeks and she could see the parallels. Her similar farmhouse/cottage was recently sold.
    You’ve touched our hearts and souls. In her enclosed long handwritten letter, Carol wrote: I bought several copies & gave all away (to my brother too) and I’m sending this slightly battered copy. I think you’d like it – parts of it remind me of your cottage – still intact – and of you & your brothers.
    I, too, was born in 1946. I’m the youngest with three brothers, one of whom died in 2009 at 71.
    I too plan to buy several copies to give away. My husband wants to read my copy.
    I’ve underlined various sayings and details with which I identified. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read “This hurts me more than it hurts you.” My mother must have heard that from her English father. She was the one who had to spank me when I went too close to Christie’s Pond because Dad was travelling. “He couldn’t do this anyway,” she’d sigh. “Somebody has to do it.”
    Thanks again, Plum You’ve written a treasure. I look forward to reading it again, more slowly.
    Clare Christie
    Amherst, NS

  39. Carol Kirshenbaum

    Carol Kirshenbaum
    October 5,2015

    Dear Plum,
    I just finished reading your book, “They left us Everything.” I enjoyed it so much. I first read your article in The Toronto Life Magazine last year. Then a friend of mine just recently recommended that I read your book. I’m glad she did. I couldn’t put it down. I could identify with so many things that you wrote about. I want my adult daughter to read it. In 2013 my brothers and I had to clear my parents house which they lived in for more than 60 years. It was a daunting task and I can certainly relate to what you went through.
    Carol Kirshenbaum
    Toronto,ON

  40. Sharon

    A friend of mine recommended your book to me after we got to talking about our parents. I am so glad she did but wish I had read it before the last of my parents passed away in 2009. Unfortunately I let my younger brother ‘take over’ the cleaning out of my Mother’s apartment and some things were simply tossed out. Some things had no memory to him but they did to me. I now understand a lot about my Mother from your writing which has helped me. Thank you.

  41. Karen Kelly

    Just finished your great book. Can’t wait for my sister to read it because we cleared out our parents’ house in 2005 with lots of laughter and tears, and exhaustion. What seems so daunting at first becomes a privilege, not everyone is chosen to receive. Currently I am goi g through my own papers, writing out information about my treasures which I hope will guide my family and trustees but perhaps I will now leave more to mystery.
    Thank you.

  42. Bonnie Leonard

    Hello Plum Johnson:
    Like the readers before me – thank you for writing such a beautiful book. So many of us ‘baby boomers’ are now in the midst of decluttering our parents’ belongings. Many of us are sons and daughters of immigrants to Canada and, like myself, are discovering new stories never told through their old letters and photos. Like you said – not many people today receive letters – what a shame – so much history contained in them. My mom is 93, I plan to ask her a lot of questions before she departs. Thank You!

  43. Ophelia T Paine

    Dear Plum Johnson,

    I have just finished your beautifully written memoir, and it was such a gift. I laughed out loud, teared up, and stopped to re-read so many paragraphs because they resonated so deeply, or were so wise and so poetically expressed. Thank you for writing this book.

    Ophelia Paine

  44. Louanne Rooney

    Wow, I couldn’t put your book down. I too just lost my Mother this January, and we had to clean out her house and sell it, it closed the end of July this year. I can’t tell you how many times your book had me in tears. I just ordered this book on line (This is the Library’s Book that I just read) to give to my Twin sister on our Birthday this year. It will be the first birthday without my Mother calling us. I know that she will love it and cry reading, as I did. Thank you, thank you, thank you for writing such a wonderful book.

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