The Kids Are All Right

( 35 )


?Perfect is boring.?

Well, 1983 certainly wasn?t boring for the Welch family. Somehow, between their handsome father?s mysterious death, their glamorous soap-opera-star mother?s cancer diagnosis, and a phalanx of lawyers intent on bankruptcy proceedings, the four Welch siblings managed to handle each new heartbreaking misfortune in the same way they dealt with the unexpected arrival of the forgotten-about Chilean exchange student?together.

All that changed with the death of ...

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“Perfect is boring.”

Well, 1983 certainly wasn’t boring for the Welch family. Somehow, between their handsome father’s mysterious death, their glamorous soap-opera-star mother’s cancer diagnosis, and a phalanx of lawyers intent on bankruptcy proceedings, the four Welch siblings managed to handle each new heartbreaking misfortune in the same way they dealt with the unexpected arrival of the forgotten-about Chilean exchange student–together.

All that changed with the death of their mother. While nineteen-year-old Amanda was legally on her own, the three younger siblings–Liz, sixteen; Dan, fourteen; and Diana, eight–were each dispatched to a different set of family friends. Quick-witted and sharp-tongued, Amanda headed for college in New York City and immersed herself in an ’80s world of alternative music and drugs. Liz, living with the couple for whom she babysat, followed in Amanda’s footsteps until high school graduation when she took a job in Norway as a nanny. Mischievous, rebellious Dan, bounced from guardian to boarding school and back again, getting deeper into trouble and drugs. And Diana, the red-haired baby of the family, was given a new life and identity and told to forget her past. But Diana’s siblings refused to forget her–or let her go.

Told in the alternating voices of the four siblings, their poignant, harrowing story of un­breakable bonds unfolds with ferocious emotion. Despite the Welch children’s wrenching loss and subsequent separation, they retained the resilience and humor that both their mother and father endowed them with–growing up as lost souls, taking disastrous turns along the way, but eventually coming out right side up. The kids are not only all right; they’re back together.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
A Best Book of 2009,
“THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT reinvents the genre. It's a choral book, with the point of view shifting between four siblings — Amanda, Liz, Dan and Diana Welch — who recount, and disagree about, the disintegration of their family. After their father's sudden death in a car crash comes their mother's slow death from cancer, and then the narrative explodes into pure bedlam: children on their own! The setting is suburban New York and Manhattan, and the time is the '80s, in all their forgotten glory — no clichés, just detail after detail that eerily reconjured my own childhood in cars, TV, music, products, as I'd long since forgotten it. This is a memoir that always feels alive and true, and one that exists for no other reason than that the story needed to be told.”
—Sean Wilsey, contributor to and author of Oh the Glory of It All

"A blisteringly funny, heart-scorching tale of remarkable kids shattered by tragedy and finally brought back together by love."

"Well crafted and beautifully written, not to mention tremendously engrossing and moving. I couldn't put it down and came to love and respect every member of this singular family."
O, the Oprah Magazine
"After the suspicious demise of dad and loss of mom to cancer, the orphaned Welch children were split up; now grown, and in rocking chorus, Diana, Liz, Amanda, and Dan Welch explain how in the world The Kids Are All Right."
Vanity Fair
"THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT hooks reader's attention from the first jarring sentence and doesn't let go until the very last poignant moment. This memoir reads like a fictional narrative, and readers may find themselves unable to put it down, enthralled as if it were a page-turning murder mystery."
The Daily Texan
"This touching, funny memoir…is an ode to the strength of sibling bonds"
Cookie Magazine
"This frank, wry, aching memoir…will leave readers musing over memory's slippery nature; the imperfect, enduring bonds of family; and the human heart's remarkable resilience."
"A brutally honest book that captures the journey of four people too young to face the challenged they nevertheless had to face."

"The Welch family's multivocal story is impossible to put down. I read The Kids Are All Right with awe at the resilience and hope a family can manage in the aftermath of unthinkable loss. The intelligence and strength of the Welch kids confirmed my belief that anything is possible when brothers and sisters come out of tragedy together."
—Danielle Trussoni, author of Falling Through the Earth

"Told with humor, compassion, and humility, and teeming with priceless '80s references, this story of parentless children learning to parent each other grabbed hold of my heart (and attention) and refused to let go. Don't start reading The Kids Are All Right, as I did, at 10 p.m., or you'll lose a night of sleep."
—Heidi Julavits, author of The Uses of Enchantment

"The Kids Are All Right–ingenious, heartfelt, prismatic–is funny and painful in its chronicling of how the chaos of 'normal' childhood can transform into something frighteningly free-form. Here, despite the milieu of privilege (and sometimes because of it), there is hardly the thinnest of buffers as reality at large begins its assault. Each member of this wry, self-deprecating gang recounts his or her story of survival in a way that bumps up against, amplifies, harmonizes with, and even contradicts the others'. Theirs is the fierce and complex love of siblings, and their clear-eyed choral storytelling is a revelation."
—Daphne Beal, author of In the Land of No Right Angles

"The Welch kids grew up like secret agents. Orphans and adventurers in Reagan's ' 80s, young Amanda, Liz, Dan, and Diana were everywhere and nowhere: bluffing their way into nightclubs (when they shouldn't even have been driving), doing homework without a home, making out with rock stars, and then making each other breakfast, lunch, dinner–because who else was there to do it? This is a tragic and heroic story that precisely maps a decade and reads like a spy thriller. The Welch kids are legendary!"
—Sean Wilsey, author of Oh the Glory of It All

Publishers Weekly

In a memoir rendered eerily dry and scattered by emotional distance, the four Welch children, orphaned in their youth in the mid-1980s, recount by turns their memories and impressions of that painful time. Growing up in an affluent community of Bedford, N.Y., to a glamorous mother and a handsome father who was the head of an oil company, the children-Amanda (born in 1965), Liz (1969), Dan (1971) and Diana (1977)-were devastated first by the sudden death of their father in a car accident in 1983, followed by their mother three and a half years later after a long, wrenching bout with cancer. The two eldest girls, teenagers at the time and initiated into the drug and rock and roll scene, remember most vividly the details of that era when their mother, already diagnosed with uterine cancer, discovered that their father left a large debt; the family had to consolidate by selling their big house and their horses. After their mother died, the children were put in the care of others, mostly with disastrous consequences, especially for Diana, farmed out to a controlling neighbor family who initially hoped to adopt her, but decide otherwise after she hit her awkward teens. Each struggled to forge an identity within harrowing circumstances, with numbing results. Dan became a troublemaker and bounced out of boarding school, while Amanda, heavily into drugs, dropped out of NYU, and Liz traveled to get out of the house. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Kirkus Reviews
In alternating monologues, four siblings tell their story of love, loss, redemption and reconciliation. In 1983, the Welch children-19-year-old Amanda, 16-year-old Liz, 14-year-old Dan and eight-year-old Diana-were living happy, sheltered lives in a New York City suburb. But this idyllic existence was soon shattered by the death in a car accident of their businessman father, leaving them not only grief-stricken but saddled with debt. Their mother, an actress in soap operas, tried to hold things together but was soon diagnosed with cancer and died three years later after a long, agonizing battle with the disease. Left on their own, the Welch children took very different paths of self-discovery and struggled to maintain the often frayed bonds among them. Amanda escaped to a bohemian life as an NYU student; Liz traveled the world; Dan became lost, first as a stoned-out slacker and then as a mean drunk. Diana was left in the custody of a family whose mother subjected her to endless psychological abuse, while the other siblings tried to convince themselves she was fine. "To be honest, I never thought much about Diana," writes Dan. "I just assumed she was happy and well. I don't think I could have handled imagining it any other way." Diana felt abandoned and, as children do, blamed herself for her feelings. The four eventually reunited, but it was through events they responded to rather than created. Each sibling speaks in his or her own words, as they describe their thoughts and actions as the events unfolded. It's a love-filled but often fraught dialogue, and the reader is a privileged silent witness to their testimony. A brutally honest book that captures the journey of four people too youngto face the challenges they nevertheless had to face. Agent: Brettne Bloom/Kneerim & Williams
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307396051
  • Publisher: Crown/Archetype
  • Publication date: 9/14/2010
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 800,055
  • Product dimensions: 8.28 (w) x 11.28 (h) x 0.77 (d)

Meet the Author

LIZ WELCH is an award-winning journalist and con­tributing writer at Inc. magazine. Her work has been published in the New York Times Magazine, Marie Claire, Real Simple, Glamour, and Redbook. She lives in New York City. DIANA WELCH is a writer and musician living in Austin, Texas. AMANDA WELCH makes a living gardening and making soaps and bath products marketed as Grubby Girl. She lives in central Virginia with her husband. DAN WELCH works as a location manager and scout for film and television. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.

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Reading Group Guide

1. Memory plays a big role in all memoirs, but most are based on just one person’s account of past events.   In The Kids Are All Right, the Welches rely on not just one but four accounts of the past — and in some cases they disagree about what happened. What does this tell you about memory as a reliable narrator? Does this challenge the way you perceive other memoirs?

2. “I wanted to be an actress just like Mom.” Throughout the book, Liz struggled between the successful facade she has created and her actual experience. What do you feel was the difference between the two?

3. The Welches never learned the truth of their father’s death. What do you think happened that night? Was his death an accident?

4. Liz, Dan and Amanda all believed that Diana was living a happy life at the Chamberlains, and that her being a part of a “normal” family was the best situation for her at the time. What was it that made them feel this way? Do you think they were right?

5. When the book begins, Amanda doesn’t want to be a part of “any of that family bulls**t” like going on a beach vacation. And yet, by the end of the book, she fills her farmhouse in Virginia with heirlooms from her parents’ home so that all her siblings would have a place to come for holidays. How did Amanda shift from rebellious daughter to the siblings’ de-facto matriarch?

6. “That was the biggest thing for me, being the only boy.” Throughout the book, Dan struggles with what it means to be a man. How did this affect his relationship with his sisters?  And how did it affect the way he perceived himself within the family?

7. Diana got in trouble for lying while she lived with the Chamberlains. Why do you think she felt compelled to do so?

8. There is a supernatural thread that runs throughout the book, from ghosts to past life regression, to religious healers and tent revivals. What was the role of the supernatural in the Welch family home? Who believed, and who didn’t? Were there stronger bonds because of it?

9. Animals and pets played a large part in the book – from Bentley, the misbehaved dog that Liz bought for her mother to the “demon bunny” Liz’s friends surprised her with in college. What are the parallels between these two scenes? What were the intentions of these gifts, and what were the reactions to receiving them?

10. Ann Williams was a soap opera actress but her life story was in many ways more unbelievable than any of her character’s roles.  How so?

11. The Christmas after their mother died, Liz writes, “Nancy Chamerberlain offered us bagels, cream cheese and lox and my heart sank further.  Mom made homemade pumpkin bread dense with molasses, raisins and walnuts… That to me was Christmas.”  How does food and holiday cooking play a role in this family’s identity?

12. How did music play a role in re-connecting the Welch children?  How would you describe the soundtrack to “The Kids Are All Right”?

13. Liz and Dan had some success in doing commercials.  How would you describe the irony between the personaes they projected and what was going on in their lives at the time?

14. Amanda calls Karen, the woman who took Dan in, a “bitch” more than once in the book.   Dan says he did not like her, but at least he knew her.  What are your thoughts about Karen?

15. This book is told from the perspective of the four Welch children. If Nancy Chamberlain wrote this story from her point of view, how would she explain her decision to cut Diana off from her siblings? And why do you think she sent Diana to live with Amanda in the end?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 35 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 1, 2009

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    Amazing Story of 4 Siblings

    This book was amazing. It had me laughing, then crying and then laughing and crying again. I could not put the book down. I am not an avid reader, but when I started this book, I knew I would read it from cover to cover.
    Definitely worth the price.
    Don't hesitate, buy it today.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Fast Read

    This was a story that grabbed you, held on to you, dragged you through the depths of the Welch's sorrow, and left you thinking "Man, and I thought I had it tough."
    I read it cover to cover on a rainy Friday. The pace was good and story engaging. I wanted to keep reading, but didn't feel compelled to.
    Some parts of the story are a bit scattered and disjointed but well done for four people who are not writers by trade.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 29, 2009

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    You will look at your life in a whole new or old way!

    Powerful story with every emotion that can only be endured by strong hearts and love for family. Endearing, unforgettable, well written, engaging. I can't say enough!
    You will want to hug all four of these kids. Each told in their own individual way. You feel like you know them and grew up with them.
    Another surprising thing I found amazing is how much of cult history I had forgotten.
    You will want to tell your own story, regardless of what that may be.
    Must read!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2011

    Fascinating story well told

    Recommend this book. The "Kids" have a very sad and amazing story to tell and they have done an excellent job of writing a group memoir using alternating chapters. Each grown "kid" tell the story from their point of view as a child at the time. This works very well.

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  • Posted November 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Great read, touching story!

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book! What a fascinating and touching story the Welches have to tell and the way it's told is just fantastic. I love love loved the four strong and very separate voices and will most likely re-read this in the future. I will recommend this to everyone I know!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2010

    The Welch Kids are Remarkable!!!

    "The Kids Are All Right" is a memoir about the lives of four siblings who together and apart indure life's interesting turns. I loved this book! It takes a little while to get used to the four voices the book is written in. Each person gives his or her take on events they all went through though they don't always remember them the same way. If you love a incredible story this book won't disappoint!

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  • Posted March 22, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Loved this book! The Welch kids did a great job with this!

    I thought this was a great book. I found it hard to put down. I especially enjoyed reading from each sibling's viewpoint. I would definitely recommend this book!

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  • Posted December 8, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A great sibling story

    I think many people who are adults and grew up with siblings will really enjoy this book. I know, that does not exactly narrow down the audience. Story is written from 4 kids perspectives and it gets passed back and forth based on a time line. The kids are dealt a rough hand to say the least. But the book, I think, is uplifting and hopeful. I have not lost a parent and my life growing up was really fairly painless, but I still was moved by this book and at times related to the characters. it is not just them dealing with the fallout from their losses, but also a lot of normal growing up stuff. Drinking, drugs, sex, puberty, etc. Nothing is too over the top, so do not think it is a story of kids that totally lost their way. Not so.
    The 4 of them did a great job writing this and I am happy I found this book. I think you will be too.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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