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The Nearly Departed: Or, My Family & Other Foreigners    by Brenda Cullerton order for
Nearly Departed
by Brenda Cullerton
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2003 (2003)

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* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

The Nearly Departed starts like a comedic play that one might see Off-Broadway - a tongue-in-cheek depiction of an extremely dysfunctional family, written by a highly imaginative playwright. After the first few pages, though, one realizes with horror that this is the true story of the author's family. A mother who wears bras and baggy black underpants to do her gardening, her outfit embellished with pop-it beads and foam curlers. A father who spends his last years in a wee house built on the grounds of the family home. Cullerton's mother would visit her father by backing the car the few hundred feet it took to reach that wee house.

Early in life, the author left home to distance herself from this family, which included a younger brother and sister. She traveled to inaccessible spots all over the world, possibly seeking the family and home she thought she really didn't have. Because of her parents' last illnesses, Cullerton returns home to find that the love she had been seeking was there all the time. This is a heart-wrenching book, though full of really funny anecdotes about the parents. As the author begins to understand why her mother and father lived and acted the way they did, she begins to understand herself.

Brenda Cullerton has written from the heart. The Nearly Departed makes it remarkably evident that the sins of the father are visited upon the children and the grandchildren. It's worth the read.

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