Recent Read: Name All the Animals by Alison Smith

Thursday, February 11, 2010

When I was searching for a book to read as my December selection, I browsed some of the racks at a local library. I came across this memoir, Name All the Animals, written by a woman named Alison Smith. I had never heard of the book, but it sounded like it could be a good read, so I gave it a chance.

Imagine my surprise when I was a few pages into it and started reading about familiar places--towns, streets, schools, and stores that I recognized. As it turns out, this woman grew up in an area not too far from here. As a result, I felt an immediate connection to the author.

Name All the Animals takes us back to Alison's years in high school. When she was 15 years old, her beloved older brother, Roy, was killed in a tragic car accident. What follows is Alison's story of grief. We are given a glimpse into the years after the accident, and come to understand the effect Roy's death has on Alison's life and the lives of her parents.

But grief is only part of the story. As I've mentioned, the book chronicles Alison's teen years, which we all know are some of the toughest years of our lives. Like many of us, Alison struggles to see where she fits in, especially in light of being "the girl whose brother died" at school. Through friends and experiences, reading and researching, living and experimenting, Alison soon finds her true self.

Also at play here is an interesting look at religion and its role in Alison's life. Raised Catholic, Alison attends a Catholic school and is expected to follow strict Catholic "rules." After Roy's death, Alison's parents turn to religion more than ever before, but for Alison, the experience is different. As I turned the pages, I found Alison's feelings about religion to be incredibly authentic. Her recollection of trying to continue to believe in a God that "allowed" her brother to die, and in a religion that condemned many of her actions, is thought-provoking. I found myself able to completely understand and relate to her feelings in some ways.

Name All the Animals gives us a glimpse into life after tragedy. Still, it is not all depressing and sad. As they say, life goes on, and Alison is forced to keep living.

Is this the best book I've ever read? No. But it is worthy of your time. For anyone interested in reading something real, I'd recommend this memoir by Alison Smith.


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