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.
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
From the Publisher
A Best Book of 2009, Salon.com
“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 Salon.com 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."
"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"
"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