In Borrowed Time: 75 Years & Counting, A Memoir, Carolyn Leeper shares with her readers a heartwarming and uplifting memoir. Mrs. Leeper intersperses her own poetry with short prose pieces throughout her book. She recalls memorable experiences, the variety of caring relatives who raised her, and what times were like when she was young. She writes of coming of age passages and of how she continues to treasure each day—her borrowed time.
Books and workshops abound that offer guidance to seniors and social workers in evoking life review memoirs. Mrs. Leeper’s Borrowed Time is an excellent example of a life review memoir that is well-written, succinct, and a pleasure to read.
Leeper begins with the story of her birth, and her mother’s death just two weeks later. The tragedy is tempered by the author’s appreciation of the relatives who stepped in to raise her with love and care. Following sections focus on her early childhood memories, her grandparents, and her father, whom she did not meet until she was seven years old.
Her pieces entitled “Money” and “More Money”—where she describes understanding the concept of money, her pride in earning it, and discovery of how to save it— would make Suze Orman’s heart sing. Leeper’s respectful attitude in regard to money reflects that of many children raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression.
Mrs. Leeper, a freelance writer and newsletter editor in Bellingham, Washington, has a clear, conversational writing style. However, reading her memoir had me wishing that she would add more details along with expanding on her life experiences instead of the brief summaries. Clearly, she has led (and clearly, is leading) an interesting and fulfilling life. I wanted Leeper to share with me and her readers more references such as the ones about saddle shoes, the cost of candy, and how she learned to swim. These details and reference points would place her life more vividly in an historical perspective and engage the reader. And I do believe that the reader would enjoy reading more about her experiences.
While Borrowed Time will be most appreciated by Leeper’s family and friends, it stands as an uplifting and heartfelt example of life review and life lessons lovingly rendered.
[Editor’s note: Upon my first reading of Leeper’s memoir, I easily envisioned it as an illustrated children’s book that could share with young children what life was like for their elder grandparents, aunts and uncles when they were young. After my third reading, I am sure that properly “translated” it would make a cherished story for young children who are curious about how their elders dressed for prom, how much they paid to see a movie, what life was like before TV, cell phones, or computers. Her vivid description of the Seven Dancer Daughters had me imaging them in my mind’s eye. Her memoir would also impart lessons to be learned and applied in the young readers’ lives. I do hope that Mrs. Leeper will give consideration to this suggestion because I would love for my young nieces to read it if she does. ]