Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I'm Learning to Say

Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I'm Learning to Say

by Kelly Corrigan

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A story-driven collection of essays on the twelve powerful phrases we use to sustain our relationships, from the bestselling author of Glitter and Glue and The Middle Place

“Kelly Corrigan takes on all the big, difficult questions here, with great warmth and courage.”—Glennon Doyle


It’s a crazy idea: trying to name the phrases that make love and connection possible. But that’s just what Kelly Corrigan has set out to do here. In her New York Times bestselling memoirs, Corrigan distilled our core relationships to their essences, showcasing a warm, easy storytelling style. Now, in Tell Me More, she’s back with a deeply personal, unfailingly honest, and often hilarious examination of the essential phrases that turn the wheel of life.

In “I Don’t Know,” Corrigan wrestles to make peace with uncertainty, whether it’s over invitations that never came or a friend’s agonizing infertility. In “No,” she admires her mother’s ability to set boundaries and her liberating willingness to be unpopular. In “Tell Me More,” a facialist named Tish teaches her something important about listening. And in “I Was Wrong,” she comes clean about her disastrous role in a family fight—and explains why saying sorry may not be enough. With refreshing candor, a deep well of empathy, and her signature desire to understand “the thing behind the thing,” Corrigan swings between meditations on life with a preoccupied husband and two mercurial teenage daughters to profound observations on love and loss.

With the streetwise, ever-relatable voice that defines Corrigan’s work, Tell Me More is a moving and meaningful take on the power of the right words at the right moment to change everything.

Praise for Tell Me More

“It is such a comfort just knowing that Kelly Corrigan exists: she is somehow both wise and self-deprecating; funny but unafraid of pain; frank but gentle. She is the sister/mother/best friend we all wish we could have—and because of this big-hearted book, we all get to.”—Ariel Levy, author of The Rules Do Not Apply

“With full-bodied humor and radical sensitivity, Kelly Corrigan transforms the mundane pain of life into a necessary spiritual text of sorts, one that reminds us that we have the right to grieve but the obligation to be grateful. This book will remind you that you are human—and of the fragile loveliness of being so.”—Lena Dunham

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780399588389
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/09/2018
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 23,528
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Kelly Corrigan has been called “the voice of her generation” by O: The Oprah Magazine and “the poet laureate of the ordinary” by HuffPost. She is the author of the New York Times bestsellers The Middle Place, Lift, and Glitter and Glue. She is also the creative director of The Nantucket Project and host of their conversation series about what matters most. She lives near Oakland, California, with her husband, Edward Lichty, and her daughters, Georgia and Claire.

Read an Excerpt

It’s Like This

There was no real reason for it to fall apart that morning. And, in fact, it didn’t. I did.

I could say it was because my dad—­whom I adored to the point of absurdity—­had died sixty-­eight days before. I could say that watching him shrink into silence did me in, that grief bled me dry, that I was no longer a match for ordinary family life, that my radio station had lost the signal, the drone of static broken only by the occasional reception of two clear thoughts: He’s gone and Please give him back.

But the truth is that I’m always teetering between a mature acceptance of life’s immutables and a childish railing against the very same. In the time it takes to get the mail, I can slide from sanguine and full of purpose to pissed off and fuming. As for perspective, there’s a Hertz customer service rep in Des Moines who could release a tape of my recent “feedback” that would make the Internet break. All of which is not to say that I can’t spot the difference between trivial and tragic. I can. I do. I genuflect in gratitude for my health, my husband, my kids, my central heating. I just can’t stay bowed down. I keep popping back up, saying things like, Does anyone else’s back hurt? In those moments, I’m not that much closer to maintaining an adult frame of reference than I was the day I got my first period.

Speaking of menstruation, lack of perspective, and fits of irrationality, I have two teenage daughters. Georgia is sixteen, with Vidal Sassoon hair, almond-­brown eyes, flat feet, and one killer dimple. She likes lacrosse and Snapchat and prefers precalculus and chemistry to the humanities, where there are too many possible answers. Her interest in me hinges on allowance and rides; offering more, like an opinion, visibly chafes her. Her independence tortures and impresses me. She is a world-­class procrastinator who brushes her wet hair in the car on the way to the party and waits until we pull up to practice to put on her cleats. She is cool on a dance floor and sometimes, when she’s telling me a story, I am as captivated by her as I have ever been by another human being.

Claire is fourteen, has blond hair that turns brown in the winter, size 12 shoes, dark blue eyes she gets from her father, and a smile that can be seen from space. She plays volleyball and basketball because we make her, lacrosse because she likes being outside in the spring. Without our interference, her extracurricular hours would be dedicated to the lyrics of Lin-­Manuel Miranda, decorating baked goods with special nozzles she found on Amazon, and throwing theme parties, six a year, pegged to the holidays. She designs her own invitations, finds snack and décor ideas on BuzzFeed, and plugs in a $14 disco light to energize the dance floor that is our deck. In fifth grade, she got every single answer right on a standardized test that was given over four days, but that doesn’t mean she can spell “skedule” or “arguement.” We like to think she might be some sort of creative genius, but anything is possible.

When they’re together, the girls are either watching reruns of The Office, ignoring each other in favor of whatever’s on their cellphone, or squabbling over how to say Wingardium Leviosa. Sometimes, the way they go back and forth reminds me of the way Edward and I bicker, and I feel sure that if only we had modeled bipartisanship, our children would be better and happier. Once or twice a year, they do a Bollywood routine they learned from Just Dance and I’m reminded of the days when being at home with each other was enough. When they do the Garth & Kat skit from Saturday Night Live, I dare to believe I can see the faint edges of a future friendship.

That leaves Edward, my husband. Growing up, he was told he looked like Robby Benson of Ice Castles. Now he gets Ben Stiller. His obsessions are swimming, having the proper gear for any occasion, ensuring that each person he comes in contact with has seen and fully appreciated all five seasons of The Wire, and the Golden State Warriors. He fanboys their impetuous power forward, Draymond Green, whom he calls Sack Tapper after Green kicked several players in the nuts during the 2016 playoffs. Other than taking upward of ten days to unpack a suitcase and nagging me about going to the dentist, Edward is fairly easy to live with. He is not afraid of the grocery store or the stove and helps me color the very back of my hair, painting my gray roots Medium Brown 5 with the mini plastic brush that comes with the kit. He is deeply rational, has work that matters to him, and almost always holds my hand as we fall asleep even though he doesn’t really like holding hands.

Me, I’m all over the place. I look like my dad, and like both the girls in different ways. My hair is naturally curly but not in the sexy beachy way. If I were a dog, I’d be the kind that’s easier to shave down than to groom. I have been told I have large teeth. I’m soft, and getting softer, and my ass is less pumpkin than helipad. To pretend I care enough to fix these things, I exercise every Saturday morning with Edward. I slow down when my forehead starts to shine—­I’m not a huge fan of showers. I wear the same clothes all week and often get past noon before putting on a bra or looking in the mirror. I prefer projects to jobs. I’ve built “furniture,” been a “photographer,” and started a “company.” I am riddled with ideas, a dozen a day. My ambition waxes when I drink alcohol—­one skinny margarita can have me filing to run for state senate—­and wanes in the morning after the kids leave and I am alone with the work. The one absolutely good thing I do is volunteer for our local children’s hospital. Every Tuesday, from three p.m. to five p.m., I hold babies in the NICU.

That’s me, that’s us.

So, this one morning . . .

I’d slept okay. The usual five a.m. stumble to the loo, and back to the sack for another couple hours in bed until, like curtains snapping open, I am awake. There’s bacon cooking—­I can smell it—­which puts Edward in the kitchen attending to his clockwork need for breakfast meats. I sit up, set my glasses on my nose to read the slight curve of my slippers. Left on left. Right on right. Another day begins.

After I quiet my white-­noise machine, the first sound I hear is a bit of edgy back-­and-­forth between the girls. Someone is wearing someone else’s shirt. Without asking. Bickering bothers me much more than it bothers Edward. Edward can tolerate it all day, coming and going, while I launch into action at the first whiff. If smoke always leads to fire, the reasonable mind begs to know, why not douse the kindling before the place burns to the ground?

Here’s why: Edward read a parenting book (just one) and the book said “Let ’em fight!”

As for the shirt, a $9 Circo crewneck from Target, it was purchased for Georgia. But last week, when I noticed it in her dresser, overflowing with options she hasn’t considered since she committed full-­time to black leggings and a gray hoodie, I thought, Gee, I bet I could get Claire to wear this. I didn’t think Claire would like it. I thought I could get her to wear it, so it wouldn’t go unused. I need things to be used—­the heel of the bread, the last page of the notebook, the rug from college. Our car has 148,412 miles on it.

So yeah, I gave Georgia’s shirt to Claire. I did not ask permission.

While the shirt thing is going down in the hall, my daughters’ voices rising, the phone rings, which suggests, as it does in households across the world, that someone should answer it. But here at Crest Road, the ringing is a dog whistle and I’m the only canine.

“Edward! The phone!”

He can’t hear me, what with the crackling bacon, the exhaust fan it necessitates, and the squabble in the hallway.

I hustle to grab the upstairs phone, only to hear “Hi! This is Joan from the Breast Cancer Awareness Fund, calling to talk to you about our Fun Run and Handbag Swap.” Oh no, Recording “Joan.” No, you don’t. I’ve had breast cancer. Chemo, surgery, radiation, the whole Party Pak. I gave. Click.

Meanwhile, the girls are really getting into it. It’s more than a shirt now; it’s I always! and You never! and That’s crazy! Then, Claire goes Real Housewives: “You don’t even know how to share, you selfish bitch!”

I am standing over her in seconds. “What did you just say?” Fuck Edward’s book.

“She—­” Claire starts to answer my rhetorical question.

“Did you hear—­” Georgia says.

Table of Contents

It's Like This 1

Tell Me More 27

I Don't Know 51

I Know 83

No 103

Yes 131

I Was Wrong 135

Good Enough 161

I Love You 177

No Words at All 183

Onward 195

This Is It 215

Author's Note 221

Acknowledgments 223

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Tell Me More: Stories About the 12 Hardest Things I'm Learning to Say 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 5 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You know that feeling when you read every last page of a book (including the dedications, acknowledgments, info about the author), sadly close the back cover, flip the book back over to the front cover, fan the pages of the book, your lips curled into a slight, sly smile? It’s bittersweet, is it not? Your soul recalls, absorbs, and cherishes the stories and words you’ve just let into your heart while your brain screams “Tell Me (even) More”, Kelly! I’ve read this book twice, mentally highlighted no less than three sentences on each page, and find I want and need to read it again. I might have missed something. Truly a beautiful, honest, entertaining, and all too real account of what so many of us encounter every single day. Breast cancer? Yeah, been there. Watching a dear friend die and having it crush you to the core every day since? Yeah, been there as well. More than once. Acknowledging our imperfections while knowing they are what make our life better and ya stronger? Yeah, well, working on that one. Read this book. Read it again. Share it with a friend, a family member, a stranger. Their life will be better for it. And they will, if there’s an ounce of character and depth to them at all, find themselves closing the back cover, slyly smiling, and yearning for more. Well done, Kelly. Well done.
Sandy5 More than 1 year ago
When I read these types of books, I start to believe that anyone who has a story has the potential for writing a book. Somehow their story has to connect to the masses for it to sell, but nevertheless they have potential. They don’t have to tell us its going to be okay or end on a happy note, they just need to connect to their readers and be real. Reading this short novel was like sitting down with a dear friend over lunch and just catching up on what was new. I found myself identifying with a few of her stories and for some of them, they made me stop and think. She was personable, someone I could relate to and I think we’d make great fence neighbors. I liked this blessing. I think it might be one, I will use for it says so much yet it is so simple: “Thank you for the food before us, the people around us, and the love between us.” I liked her point about Cleta, her grandmother. Kelly should have gotten to know her better, she should have tried to appreciate her like her father wanted her to. Kelly felt bad because she didn’t go visit her as much as she had planned to but it wasn’t all about the missed visits. It’s quality over quantity. It didn’t matter how much she visited, it’s what she did when she was there. I really liked the I Love You chapter as there was so much truth in what she said. I love you covers the good times and the bad, the letdowns and the victories, the highs and the lows. “The first time the words pass between two people: electrifying. Ten thousand times later: cause for marvel. The last time: the dream you revisit over and over and over again. “ The last two chapters of this novel had me almost in tears. Kelly narrates to Liz, her dear friend who has passed away, how life is moving forward without her. Liz’s husband Andy still performs some of the traditions that Liz had started, they’ve just recently celebrated her birthday with a small gathering of her friends, Liz’s clothes are still hanging in her closet, and they’ve just decided how they’re going to celebrate her first death date. This was an emotional closure to a novel with a friend that I had just met.
GothykMama More than 1 year ago
In a series of extremely personal and revealing essays, Kelly takes us through a series of phrases that have become essential to improving and sustaining her relationships.  We could all take a lesson from this author's introspection and willingness to learn from challenges and opportunities for growth. I received this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
LeighKramer More than 1 year ago
The author's chapter titled Yes is a list of things she will always say yes to. One of the items on my Yes list? Reading Kelly Corrigan's books. I am now three for three with loving her books. I can't remember how I came across her memoir The Middle Place a few years ago but it was a revelation, as was its follow-up Glitter And Glue. I didn't even need to know what Tell Me More was about before I requested an advance copy. I knew I'd love it and I was right. Kelly Corrigan's writing never ceases to amaze me. Tell Me More is structured differently from her memoirs but we still get her excellent storytelling. There were a few chapters where I wasn't quite sure where her stories were going or how they connected to the chapter's phrase. But she always, always brought it home. True to form, I laughed out loud and I teared up. Her writing can be so moving and especially when paired with the lessons she's learned. I'd finish reading the chapter and sit back a little, taking it in, thinking through how it applied to my life. I think that's the point of reading Tell Me More. It's giving us a chance to consider what things we need to say to the people around us. When I worked for hospice, we'd often reference the five things you should say before you die: thank you, I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, and goodbye. I thought about this as I looked at Corrigan's twelve phrases. There's very little overlap and yet the two lists partner well together. Onward was one of my favorite chapters. It includes one of the best metaphors about grief and loss I've ever encountered. Corrigan quotes her friend Andy's eulogy for his wife and her best friend Liz. The book is worth reading for that alone. But honestly, this is a book that's just plain worth reading. Corrigan is relatable. She's not perfect. She doesn't have it all figured out and in that vein, she invites us to come alongside and learn with her. This is a book I want to refer back to for when I'm in a sticky situation or I'm not sure what to say or I need to improve my communication skills with loved ones. I you hear me saying, "tell me more" or "it's like this" a lot more, you'll know why. Disclosure: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tell Me More by Kelly Corrigan is an open, honest, thoughtful, loving memoir which shares points in her life when she learned the true importance and meaning of saying 12 different phrases that we constantly hear in our language. The phrases include: tell me more; it's like this; I don't know; I know; No; Yes; I was wrong; Good enough; I love you; No words at all; Onward; and This is it. Through her reflections, she teaches us not only the importance of the words we choose, but also how to better our own communications and relationships with others in our lives. Some of my personal favorites to remember are: "Learn to say no. And when you do, don't complain and don't explain. Every excuse you make is like an invitation to ask you again in a different way." "Sometimes the art of relationship is declaring your limits, protecting your boundaries, saying no." "There's so much that you don't know, you can't know, you aren't ever going to know." "You can't be really loved if you can't bear to be really known." "We can be damaged and heavy-hearted but still buoyant and insightful, still essential and useful, just by saying "I know"." and finally, "Life is a mystery. Live your mystery." Thanks to NetGalley and Random House for allowing me to read an e-ARC of this book. All opinions are strictly my own. KathyF.