NAME ALL THE ANIMALS: A Memoir

Alison Smith, Author
Alison Smith, Author . Scribner $24 (319p) ISBN 978-0-7432-5522-6
Reviewed on: 11/10/2003
Release date: 01/01/2004
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7435-3583-0
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-7435-3677-6
Compact Disc - 978-0-7435-3584-7
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In her first book, Smith, an alumna of the Yaddo and MacDowell writers' colonies, confidently weaves together aspects of a traditional coming-of-age memoir with a story of unimaginable loss. In lucid, controlled prose, she meticulously reconstructs her family's journey through the three years following her 18-year-old brother Roy's death in a car accident, just weeks before he was to start college, in 1984. Despite their overwhelming grief, Smith's devout Catholic parents' faith does not waver, but the 15-year-old Smith grapples with her beliefs. "I thought perhaps it was my fault that Roy had left us," she writes. "I thought I was being punished for some unknown sin." A student at a Rochester, N.Y., Catholic high school, Smith can't express her doubts, nor can she reveal her romantic feelings for one of her schoolmates, a less sheltered girl who introduces her to Colette and van Gogh. And even though Smith becomes exceedingly thin, her mother and father fail to notice she's anorexic. Name All the Animals (the title refers to Adam naming the animals in the Garden of Eden) includes many vivid images, although some of the language can seem too pretty and composed. The book closes with the third anniversary of Roy's death. "If I lived past the summer of my eighteenth year," Smith resolves, "I would have to face that Roy died and that I—the little sister, the tagalong... would surpass him." It's a brave ending to an impressive debut. (Feb. 10)

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