The Things Between Us

A Memoir

The Things Between Us

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.
  • Free Press | 
  • 256 pages | 
  • ISBN 9781416543107 | 
  • July 2007
List Price $19.99 (price may vary by retailer)


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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide
The Things Between Us
By Lee Montgomery

Discussion Points
  1. Considering that this book focuses primarily on her relationship with her father, why does the author begin with: "First things first. You have to meet my mother." What does this first scene tell you about "Mumzy" and the Montgomery parents' relationship? How does their behavior throughout the book reinforce your early impressions of them? Does either of them ever change? Does the way that Lee relates to them ever change?

  2. Lee spent most of her childhood trying to cope with her mother and adoring her father. Why do you think Lee identifies so strongly with Big Dad? In what ways are they alike? How are they different?

  3. Despite hints of a deep resentment and long-held anger, Lee still seems to love her mother very much. What is it about Barbara that Lee admires? Knowing some of the facts of her life, can you sympathize with Barbara at all?

  4. Compare and contrast the author's childhood in New England with her adulthood in Southern California and Oregon. In what ways do the two regions offer similar experiences? In what ways are they different?

  5. On page 7, Lee calls her father a "classic Yankee." Using examples from the book, explain what she means by this.

  6. Lee and her father "spend [their] lives together doing chores," (p. 14-15). Even after she moves away,
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About the Author

Lee Montgomery
Photo Credit:

Lee Montgomery

Lee Montgomery is the editorial director of Tin House Books and executive editor of Tin House, a literary magazine. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Story Magazine, Black Clock, Denver Quarterly, and The Iowa Review. She lives in Portland, Oregon.