I just finished reading the book ‘The Kids are All Right’, a memoir by Diana and Liz Welch with Amanda and Dan Welch. I highly recommend it. This is the book I was so engrossed in reading on the bus that I almost missed my stop. Thankfully, someone who works in the same building nudged me out of my zone as he was getting off the bus.
There is a movie by the same name, but the book and the movie are not related. This book is about love, family, and survival. At times it made me laugh, made me cry, made me angry, and horrified me.
It tells the story of a family with four children. The father owned his own company and took care of everything, the details of having a home and family. The mom was a soap opera actress and a loving mom. The kids were growing up normally until tragedy struck.
The father was killed in a car accident. Days after the funeral, the partner begged for $50,000 saying the company needed it, then disappeared. The company was bankrupt, leaving the family with a $250,000 debt for a business loan the mother co-signed.
The house and half the property was sold to pay the debt and the family moved into a small cottage that was on the other half of the property until a new home could be built. The mother had a struggle getting over the death of her husband and the kids basically started taking care of themselves.
Just 8 short months after the death of their father, their mother was diagnosed with cancer. A three-year battle started and was eventually lost, leaving the four orphans. The rest of the story is about how the kids coped in the years following.
Amanda, the oldest, was 19. The state didn’t feel she could handle having custody of the remaining kids so they couldn’t all stay together. A trust fund was set up with the proceeds from selling the new house, to pay for education and medical expenses. She was put in charge of it and did an excellent job of managing it. But she coped with death of both parents and her siblings being separated by dropping out of NYU, doing drugs and partying hard.
Liz, at age 16, went to live with a family she used to babysit for. She, too, dabbled in drugs and the partying lifestyle on her frequent visits to Amanda. She left for Europe as soon as she graduated, deferring college for a year. She dealt with the loss by remaining away from her hometown with her frequent travels.
Dan, at age 14, was to go to boarding school and live with a friend of their father’s, whom none of the children knew. Before the first break in boarding school, the friend said he couldn’t take care of the boy and Dan was left without a home. Dan dealt with things by also doing drugs and becoming a trouble maker, eventually getting kicked out of boarding school twice.
Luckily, a friend of their mother’s came to Dan’s rescue, allow him to stay with her. Although single, she was instrumental in the kids lives from then on, becoming a part of the family, providing them with a place to gather on holidays and trying to keep their family traditions alive.
Diana, age 8, was sent to live with a family even before her mother passed. Her mom didn’t want Diana to go through seeing her die. The new mom wanted a perfect, well-behaved child who would care about the impression she made on others. Diana’s free spirit was stifled and she had a very hard time coping. The new mom thought that Diana’s birth siblings were behind her perceive bad behaviour and she wasn’t allowed to see them. As the other children thought Diana was in the best possible situation, they didn’t make a fuss over not being able to see her. The new mom eventually grew resentful of the child living with her and began punishing the child for it.
The story is told from the perspective of all four kids which makes it so much more interesting than it would have been otherwise. The reader sees how Amanda thought about things at the same time as Diana has a different outlook on the same situation. It tells how each child felt and how they each felt about each other as they went through life as orphans.
It’s an incredible story that should not be missed.