A daughter’s remarkable and unflinching exploration of the unconventionally intimate relationship she shared with her mother—a brilliant and charismatic woman haunted by past trauma.
When her daughter is eight, Leah McLaren’s mother abruptly fled her life as rural house wife in search a glamorous career in the city. In the chaotic years that follow, Cecily lurches from one apartment, job and toxic romance to the next. In a home without rules or emotional boundaries, Leah and Cecily become confidants—a state of enmeshment that suits them both. Their bond is loving but also marked by casual indifference. Cecily’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, Cecily makes a disclosure that will forever alter their relationship: From 12 to 15, Cecily confides, she was the lover of her 45-year-old married pony club instructor. The trauma of the “Horseman,” she explains, is the reason for all her ill-conceived life choices, including marriage and motherhood itself which she now bitterly regrets.
For years after, into adulthood, Leah is haunted by the specter of the Horseman. He is the nameless darkness she observes in Cecily and worse yet, recognizes in herself. Eventually she sets out to discover truth of what became of her mother’s rapist. Leah believes she will find solace in the facts, but first she must grasp a deeper truth: That this story—her story—is not the Horseman’s after all.
A riveting and devastating portrait of mother and daughter, Where You End and I Begin explores the way intergenerational trauma is shared between women and how acts of harm can be confused with acts of love.
Leah McLaren is an award-winning journalist, screenwriter, and novelist. Her two novels, The Continuity Girl and A Better Man, have been published in half a dozen countries and translated into several languages. She has also written for film and television. She began her career as a columnist for the Globe and Mail, where she spent a decade on staff and was posted to the London bureau. For many years she was Europe correspondent for Maclean’s magazine, for whom she now serves as a contributing editor. She is a frequent contributor to many respected publications, including the Guardian, the Observer Magazine, the Spectator, and Toronto Life. In 2013, she won a gold National Magazine Award in the long-features category. She was born in rural Ontario, and grew up in Cobourg and Toronto, Ontario. Today she lives in London, England with her husband and two sons.
"An intimate voyage into the deepest, darkest heart of motherhood and daughterhood, musing too on consent, victim narratives and the ownership of stories. The result is a work of probing insight and undaunted compassion; one that’s fearlessly engrossing, frequently funny and sometimes plain hair-raising." — The Guardian
"A mother’s fraught history prompts an intelligent and affecting interrogation of generational trauma in the magnificent latest from McLaren. . . . As McLaren untangles their complicated bond, she offers an unconventional meditation on consent, love, and motherhood that’s imbued with radical compassion when McLaren later becomes a mother herself. The result is a kaleidoscopic portrayal of family ties at their most complex and beautiful.” — Publishers Weekly (starred)
"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. Leah has written a poignant and brave modern gothic. I am blown away, madly in love." — Lauren Mechling, author of How Could She
“Readers will be fascinated by this richly detailed yet never sensationalized account that serves to illustrate the many ways trauma can cast a shadow over a family for generations. McLaren has a difficult story to share, and she does it with kindness and clear-eyed forgiveness.” — Booklist
"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
“Raw and beautiful—I was riveted all the way through.” — Annie Macmanus, author of Mother, Mother
“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
“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
“Exquisitely painful, funny, recognizable and so full of love; hot of heart and cool of mind. A wonderful achievement.” — Ann-Marie MacDonald, author of Fayne