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Family & Relationships Death, Grief, Bereavement

They Left Us Everything

A Memoir

by (author) Plum Johnson

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Oct 2016
Death, Grief, Bereavement, Women, Personal Memoirs
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2016
    List Price
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2014
    List Price

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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.

About the author


  • Nominated, OLA Evergreen Award
  • Winner, RBC Taylor Prize

Contributor Notes

PLUM JOHNSON is an award-winning author, artist, and entrepreneur living in Toronto. She was the founder of KidsCanada Publishing Corp., publisher of KidsToronto, and co-founder of Help's Here! resource magazine for seniors and caregivers. The author lives in Toronto, ON.

Editorial Reviews

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

User Reviews

Wonderful memoir.

They Left us Everything by Plum Johnson is a wonderful story about a woman who travels through her past as she sorts through the contents of the family home her parents left their children. What she thought would be a matter of weeks takes significantly longer as each item is wrapped with memories of both family and historical value. Hard to make decisions about what to keep and what must go.
Throughout, Ms. Johnson takes the reader on the journey with her. I laughed, I cried, and felt connected to her at almost every moment.
Inevitably we will or have faced what she so adeptly's losses, its wins, and the cherished memories that accompany us along the way...all too often forgotten as we live it but remembered when sometimes it's too late.
I loved this book. Highly recommend it. And...was thrilled to hear it's been short-listed for the RBC Taylor Prize.

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