Thursday, November 05, 2009

The Kids are All Right (2009)

Our latest literary society discussion pick is The Kids Are All Right (2009) by Diana and Liz Welch, with the help of their brother Dan and their sister Amanda. This is a memoir of four siblings, each of whom experienced and remember the unsettling events of their youth in very different ways that all come together into a very engrossing and moving book.

When Amanda, the oldest sibling, was 16 and Diana, the youngest, was four, their father died in a car accident. He was driving back to their home in Bedford, New York form his father's funeral in Boston. Their mother, a soap opera actress, was left alone with the four children and a mountain of previously undisclosed financial problems. And then, one month later, she was diagnosed with cancer. When she died four years later, the siblings struggled to find families that could take them in, especially the two youngest -- Dan (14) and Diana (8) -- but no one would volunteer to take them all.

I am not always a fan of the "crazy childhood" memoir genre -- I think they are often played either too lightly or too tragically. But The Kids Are All Right, in part because of its four narrators, is moving because it is straightforward and has a natural delivery of both humor and sadness. And while much of the book is about the family tragedies, the memoir also gives us the same awkward and funny and isolating and embarrassing normal experiences of growing up. Very nicely done.

[There is also a lovely web site, if you want to find out more about the book and the Welch family.]

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