The Kids Are Alright: A Memoir

Images The Kids Are Alright is an incredible memoir.  Four children who lose their parents within 2 1/2 years of each other.  I couldn't put it down.  I sobbed through half the book.

The story takes place in Bedford, NY near Mt. Kisco.  Four kids, spanning from 16 to 4, lose their larger than life father in a car accident post a family vacation.  They are left with their mother, an occasional soap opera actress to keep the family together.  She is besides herself.  It ends up her husband had them also living a bit on the edge after getting into some bad investments.  After his death, the mother finds out she has cancer which takes a life of its own and after 2 1/2 years she too dies.

Each chapter is written from the view of each of the children, now adults.  What they recall, what happened to them and how they coped.  Only one of them was 18 when the mother died and the rest of them had to move in with someone else in order to be taken care of.  The youngest was 8.  Her experience is heart-breaking.  Through the haze of weed, alcohol and other drugs, they all manage to survive and keep together as a family.

It is a story of survival.  It is also a story of teenagers growing up, trying to find themselves with no parent leading the way.  I am sure scars still remain.  Yet, they wrote the book together and appear to have all discovered themselves along the way.  Powerful book.  I loved it.

Comments (Archived):

  1. TanyaMonteiro

    Made me think of the Glass Castle

    1. Gotham Gal

      A little bit but not the same at all.

  2. Tereza

    Wow Joanne I’m really pleased you liked that book. I’ve been enjoying your blog from afar for a few months.I grew up with the Welches. Danny in middle school and played volleyball with Liz. I wasn’t super close to them but we were all deeply affected by it when it happened. Sort of changed us all forever. And then again through Facebook we all rallied to support them, went to The local readings, etc.When I read it I cried from beginning to end (five years ago I lost my parents 8 months apart, so there was also an aspect of “orphan” I was relating to). A really amazing family of kids. They’re really great as adults, too.I guess the other message is, run don’t walk to your nearest estate planner. I was particularly shocked by how the lack of planning affects the youngest most profoundly. Because they’ll live with our (lack of) decisions the longest. My heart broke for Diana.

    1. Gotham Gal

      I so loved the book. From the story it seemed like the community was really affected too.My heart bled for Diana. I can’t agree more about estate planning. You never know, god forbid. -t is so wrong and selfish not to prepare for the worst case scenario so your kids will be taken care of.joanne [email protected]

      1. Tereza

        Well, part of what moved/upset me about the story was that the ‘community’ didn’t do more.It’s a more diverse place than you think and there were and remain a lot of social silos (Bedford Golf & Tennis among them). There were good families out there but they were not connected with the need. And that really bummed me out.I’m not particularly religious but some kind of — any kind of — congregational community could have helped rally the forces. Also i’m a pro-public school gal but I see private school communities rallying more, I think because the families opted into the community so they feel a sense of responsibility for it. In public, there’s more a sense of flowing through and moving on.Americans are particularly and uniquely avoidant of talking about death and its practical ramifications. I’ve lived elsewhere and it’s not the case. It’s really bizarre and does downstream damage. It’s the one thing we can count on in life. Why pretend?

        1. Gotham Gal

          Interesting take. Death or even cancer is such a scary thing to people. Not that they feel threatened by it but more that they would rather turn a blind eye for fear or being uncomfortable. I have a few friends who have dealt with serious issues within their families and it is fascinating how good friends sometime rise to the occasion while othertimes just turn away.I didn’t get the feeling from the book that the parents were very connected to a group of friends or people in their local community which is perhaps why nobody except the miserable Chamberlains rose to the call.joanne [email protected]

  3. Yule Heibel

    I had a friend at Harvard whose history is uncannily similar. Her father died in a freak accident (I think he was a civil engineer, killed by a truck backing up; after his death, trucks had that beeping-when-backing-up noise installed), and then, a few years later, her mother died. Suddenly she was orphaned, 18 years old, starting college, but with 3 siblings (at least two still in middle school) and no parents. So she and her brother (also still a teenager) stayed in the family home, without any other adults, and between them ran the show. I wonder how often that happens? PS: the kids are alright. They all did well. Amazing, really. Edit/ PS: Unlike what happened in the book, in my friend’s case, the kids all stayed together, in the family home, but without any relatives or adults supervising, for years. I think that’s amazing (and pretty cool), but I always wondered how they managed to escape the scrutiny of social services and similar agencies.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Good question. I wonder how many other families this has or happens too. The good news is the kids are alright.joanne [email protected]