A daughter’s unflinching exploration of the intimate and unconventional relationship she shared with her mother—a brilliant, charismatic woman haunted by a traumatic past.
When Leah is eight, her mother, Cessie, abruptly flees her role as a rural housewife in search of a glamorous career in the city. In the chaotic years that follow, Cessie lurches from one apartment, job, and toxic romance to the next. In a home without rules or emotional boundaries, daughter and mother become close confidantes—a state of enmeshment that suits them both. Their bond is loving but also marked by casual indifference. Cessie’s self-described parenting style of “benign neglect” is a hilarious party joke, but for her daughter it’s reality. In Leah’s first year of high school, her mother makes a disclosure that will forever alter their relationship: She confides that from the age of 12 well into her teens, she was the lover of her 45-year-old married pony club instructor. The trauma of the “Horseman,” Cessie explains, is not just a dark family secret but the reason for all her ill-conceived life choices, including marriage and motherhood itself. For years after, into adulthood, Leah is haunted by the specter of the Horseman. He is the nameless anxiety and restlessness she observes in her mother and increasingly recognizes in herself. Eventually, she and Cessie set out to discover truth of what became of her mother’s rapist. The investigation that ensues pushes their relationship to the brink of collapse. Leah is seeking solace in the facts, but first she must confront a deeper, more painful truth: that her story—the story of trying and failing to love a complicated mother—is not the Horseman’s after all. A riveting and devastating portrait of mother and daughter, Where You End and I Begin is a memoir that explores how trauma is shared between women and how acts of harm can be confused with acts of love.
About the author
LEAH McLAREN is a Globe and Mail columnist and Europe correspondent for Maclean’s. In 2013, she won a gold National Magazine Award in the arts feature category for her work in Toronto Life magazine. Her first novel, The Continuity Girl, published by HarperCollins Canada and Warner US, was a national bestseller, spending nine weeks on the Globe and Mail bestseller list. She was born in rural Ontario, grew up in a small town and now splits her time between Toronto and London, England, where she shares a home with her husband and two boys. Twitter: @leahmclaren
"Intelligent and affecting . . . magnificent. . . . A kaleidoscopic portrayal of family ties at their most complex and beautiful." —Publishers Weekly, starred review
"A work of probing insight and undaunted compassion; one that’s fearlessly engrossing, frequently funny and sometimes plain hair-raising." —The Guardian
Advance Praise for Where You End and I Begin:
“Riveting and ruthlessly incisive, this book is a deep, courageous excavation of the subterranean, passionate layers between a mother and a daughter and the histories that shape our futures. I could not and would not put it down.” —Sarah Polley, author of Run Towards the Danger
"Mordant, clear-eyed, loving, devastating. Richly evocative, propulsive, and so well written—her prose sparkles like sunshine over deep water." —Aida Edemariam, author of The Wife’s Tale
“The mother/daughter relationship is almost impossible to be honest about. Especially if the connection is as complicated as this one: a tangle of love, jealousy, selfishness, narcissism, yearning, and resistance. But Leah McLaren goes there, and the results are never less than riveting. You may wince; you may blush. But you will see your own parent/child relationships anew.” —Johanna Schneller, co-author of The Last Doctor
“If Edward St. Aubyn were to write an episode of Euphoria, it might come close to Leah McLaren's astonishing memoir. Ecstatically wild and weirdly fun, this book has me praying that it is the first installment of a series—and that I'll be seeing more of this latchkey kid and her mother, both of whom are brilliantly flawed, and make cardboard cutouts out of the rest of us. McLaren has written a poignant and brave modern gothic. I am blown away, madly in love.” —Lauren Mechling, author of How Could She
“Where You End and I Begin is a burningly true and gorgeously written memoir of a complex mother and daughter relationship. At its heart, this is a freshly told story by a great writer about an under-parented generation, where children were free to realize themselves, but also perhaps to become lost in the process. You’re in good hands with Leah as she guides you through the pain and joy of her unfettered childhood.” —Cathrin Bradbury, author of The Bright Side
“Raw and beautiful—I was riveted all the way through.” —Annie MacManus, author of Mother Mother