Thursday, February 10, 2011

Not quite what I expected but...

I'll admit when I picked up "The Kids Are All Right" I was not expecting the book that I read.
The title caught my eye as I'd spent that day at work shooting a video promo for our Academy Awards contest and I had movies on my mind.
I thought, 'hey, that's one of the films nominated for Best Picture, I'll read that before I see the movie.'
Well this is not that, as they say.
In sharing my initial thoughts about the book with our AME Features Mark Meszoros, who has seen all the nominated films, it became clear that this book and that movie do not deal with the same subject.
"Kids" was written by four siblings in the aftermath of family tragedy.
Liz Welch, Diana Welch, Dan Welch and Amanda Welch may have experienced the same basic events, but their experiences were far from the same.
When their father is killed in a car accident, the family is plunged into turmoil. Each sibling feels his death differently. Still reeling from that, their mom, soap star Ann Williams, learns she has cancer. The next few years are a blur of treatments and changes for all the kids. After her death, it only gets worse.
Diana is just 8, and Amanda, 19. Circumstances are such the each child is sent off separately. Their struggles to remain connected as a family are the backbone of the book.
I am a big believer in birth order. No two children grow up in the same family. Even raised in the same house by the same people and going to the same schools, it is not the same experience.
When the second child is born, the entire family dynamic is shifted. So too for the third and fourth. Don't even get me started on the youngest ...and we haven't even mentioned gender!
I don't think two children ever have the same parents either. How could two people be the same at 30 as at 25?
And clearly siblings recall events differently.
In the Welches' case, the night their mother died, Liz writes, "I'd gone to sleep alone the night before - I think I was the only person in the house other than Mom and the night nurse." Amanda recalls, "Liza wasn't alone the night Mom died. I slept next to her, in the same bed even."
But that's just the details. What they all have amazing recall for is the same sense of joyfulness their father had, the horror of watching their mother waste away and the bond they kept them close even as life threatened to separate them for good.
I was moved by their honesty and felt compelled to touch base with my own siblings.
Perhaps there's a reason I picked this book from the shelf, after all.

Click here for book club discussion questions.

- Tricia Ambrose


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