15 October 2010

The Kids Are Alright Part II

It took me a little longer than I'd have liked but that's how my life goes.

I finished The Kids Are Alright yesterday morning at about 1:00.  Wow.  As I started to write in my previous post, this book is just wonderfully written.  I love that all the Welch kids take turns writing chapters.  I almost hate to call them chapters, since they're mostly just a few paragraphs, maybe a page or two, but they are always significant.  In any case, it's how the reader gets to know each of the Welches in turn, and in their own words.  Each of them has their own distinctive voice and their own way with words.  Liz and Diana have become professional writers and I'm not at all surprised.

I'm finding myself relating most to Diana, the baby of the Welch family, since I myself am the baby of my family.  Not that I faced the kind of heartbreaks that the Welch kids did, but I also lost one parent very young and had the other parent just check out on me. I spent my growing-up years with people other than my family, not sure how I got there or what would happen to me. And ultimately it was my sisters who helped me find my way. 

This story is just a powerful testament to love and to family and to the ties that bind.  No matter how far-flung the Welch siblings were, they always loved each other and took care of one another the best way they knew how.  Amanda, who seemed so angry and didn't want any part of "family bullshit" like vacations together, turned out to be a pretty darn good mom to her younger brother and sisters and never gave up on any of them. She had the most time with her mom, but she had to learn so much on the fly.  Liz loved fiercely and was always ready to drop everything when she was needed.  Dan drifted toward adulthood and real life aimlessly but he had two guiding lights to keep him from going off the edge of a cliff.  I feel especially for Dan, because he was the only boy in the family and he didn't have anyone to help him learn what it means to be a man, a partner, a husband, a father.  Diana, well, God love her, I feel a real kinship with her.  I would argue that she drew the short straw for being the baby and being the one who had to work the hardest at understanding what was happening.

I wrote out this whole long post, and when I read it before I hit 'post' it occurred to me that it sounded like a book report.  Which really doesn't do it justice at all.  Let me try again. 

What I really want to say about this book, is that it touched me deeply.  I felt drawn in, like I was one of them.  I laughed with them and I cried with them.  Dan broke my heart when he didn't think anyone gave a crap about how much acid he was dropping.  I wanted to just wrap Diana up in my arms and take her home with me when Nancy told her that she was ugly and no one wanted her around. Amanda wanted and tried to just forget everything and party her way through life, and I just wanted to slap her a high five reading about how she started to get it, about how important her siblings were to her, and when she creates new holiday traditions with them.  And I love that Liz pursued her own life and studied abroad and yet was still always there for the others.  What a phenomenal family. Just...wow.

And at the end, there is hope and forgiveness.  As much as they had stacked up against them, the Welches keep on keepin' on, and refused to give up or give in. As much as they've all struggled to find their way, they have all come out ahead. Marriage, careers, and the ultimate expression of hope, children. 

Yeah, the kids are alright.

11 October 2010

The Kids Are Alright

Oh look. Another month and a half gone. 

Fall quarter is in full swing for me, and you know what that means.  For a history major, it means tons and tons and TONS of reading.  Which is why I'm still trying desperately to find time to finish The Kids Are Alright.  I started it at least ten times, during the few moments I could steal to read something for pleasure rather than for an obligation, always dozing off before I got past page 5.  Not because the book is boring or dull....it isn't.  Not because the story isn't compelling and heart-wrenching and phenomenally written....it is.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must tell you that I am  only about halfway through the book.  But what I've read so far, is why I read so much of it in one afternoon.  I found myself with some time today and picked it up (again) and honestly couldn't put it down.  I'm blowing off a book on Hitler (which, to a history major with a serious love for military history, is a bit like turning down a hit on the ol' crack pipe) to finish it tonight.

It's the story of four siblings, the Welch family, written in turn by each of them.  Each chapter heading is the name of the sibling that wrote those particular pages.  It's the story of their father's sudden and kind of mysterious death, and their mother's illness that came on the heels of it.  It is about how they each experienced these life altering and world shattering events, as children. 

Each of them has their own very distinctive voice, and it didn't take me long to figure out who was writing, even without the chapter headings.  Amanda is the oldest and she sounds angry.  She is MAD.  Maybe she's not now, but then....whoo.  Liz is ironic and articulate, and it doesn't surprise me to read on the back cover that she is a writer.  Dan is kind of sarcastic and blunt and doesn't mince his words.  And Diana is the baby.  She seems kind of bewildered at all that is going on around her.  She can't influence any of it and must just go along for the ride.  They're all heartbroken and devastated by their father's death and angered by their mother's inability to deal with it.  It's funny and sad and touching and messy and real. 

I love it.  I am invested in the players...do you call them characters when they are real people?...and I want to know more.  So, I'm going to go finish the book, so I can finish writing about it.