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Name All the Animals: A Memoir

3.66  ·  Rating Details  ·  2,728 Ratings  ·  233 Reviews
An intensely stirring coming-of-age memoir by Alison Smith, Name All the Animals brilliantly explores the power and limitations of a family's faith. Smith was 15 when her older brother, Roy, was killed in a car accident, and her memoir follows her family as they attempt to put their lives back together. Her parents try to take comfort in their strong Catholic faith but ar ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published February 22nd 2005 by Scribner (first published January 1st 2004)
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Tracy Rhodes
Mar 28, 2007 Tracy Rhodes rated it really liked it
Alison Smith examines the fallout in the lives of her and her parents following the sudden death of her adored older brother Roy when she was 15. A sweet and sad book, although not without its funny moments (most involving the feisty nuns in charge of her Catholic girls' high school).

Anyone from a family that has trouble reaching out to each other will be touched by the insular, lonely ways that Alison and her parents suffer from Roy's loss. Alison's slide into anorexia (weirdly overlooked by h
Aug 01, 2011 Dinah rated it it was ok
There's something to be said for matching form and content: Alison Smith's memoir puts the reader in the slow, foggy haze she describes in the months and years following her brother's death. That being said, it doesn't make for a super-engaging read. The form/content match holds up when the narrative moves on to the author's first experience with love in high school; the pace picks up, the text becomes vivid and seems to almost pitter-patter, drawing the reader in to the perilous world of secret ...more
Jul 05, 2013 Saipriya rated it it was amazing
Shelves: shelf
Alison Smith has written a memoir from an important but rarely talked about point of view. When someone dies young, our society tends to empathize with the parents, but the sibling role is just as significant. Alison bravely tells the story of her brother Roy's tragic death and the repercussions that follow his passing.

Alison not only has to try to overcome her immense grief, but also has to deal with the fact that the roles in her family almost reverse. Her parents are just as distraught as Ali
Feb 21, 2012 Candace rated it it was amazing
Shelves: memoirs
I found this book totally captivating. I read the whole thing over the course of 24 hours. For one, I have a deep personal connection to the experience of losing a sibling. I honestly think I would have plowed through this book just as easily even if I didn't. It was so honest and telling. I felt for very character in the book. I am seriously baffled by the reviews that found it boring. Although - of course - y'all are entitled to your own opinions. For me, it was gripping and sentimental. Absol ...more
Kristen Chavis
Jan 20, 2011 Kristen Chavis rated it it was amazing
Name All the Animals is an example of what a memoir should be. Allison Smith manages to take readers on a journey, as she recounts her coping with the loss of her older brother, Roy. She is unsentimental when the reader see's her starving herself, as she tries to make sense of Roy's death. Smith uses the craft of memoir beautifully as she shows readers the exact moment that she stopped believing in Jesus. With amazing concepts like the "before people",The people who didn't know Roy had died, and ...more
Richard Gilbert
Feb 15, 2012 Richard Gilbert rated it it was amazing
In 1984, a small, happy family lives in Rochester, New York: a resolute, devout mother; a dreamy, spiritual father; a quiet, competent boy; a watchful, bookish girl.

But they’re on the brink of disaster, and, almost immediately, it happens: one day in late July the boy, eighteen, dies in a fiery automobile crash. Nothing will ever be the same. They become secretive, walled off their separate grieving, as the accident’s aftershocks go on and on. Alison Smith, who was fifteen when her brother Roy d
Meegan Soule'
Mar 19, 2009 Meegan Soule' rated it it was amazing
Name All the Animals, for me, was a theraputic journey. It is about death, grief, and recovery. The writer, Alison, experiences the death of her brother when she is only 15. He is killed tragically in a car accident. The book takes you into the heart and lives of her family as they walk through this very dark spot in their lives. I absolutely loved her style of writing and how she was so raw, taking the reader to unexpected places in her life. Losing my own brother tragically, I was able to iden ...more
Oct 24, 2007 Amy rated it it was ok
man, i'm getting really tired of reading books that are just okay. somebody do me a favor and recommend an awesome book to me, please.
yeah, i'm a little biased against nonfiction, and that may have something to do with it, but this chick is just not a very good writer. she uses the same descriptive phrases over and over, which is really sloppy, and the book is poorly structured. that said, i did sympathize with her. if there was a half-star option i probably would've given this book two and a h
Dec 17, 2011 Diane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this beautifully written memoir. It reads very much like a "coming of age" novel and explores so many facets of life at age fifteen. Alison is 15 when her only sibling, Roy, is killed in a sudden and terrible accident. She and her brother were so close that they shared a common nickname, Alroy, and suddenly Alison has to figure out who she is without Roy. She attends an all-girls Catholic school and tries to come to terms with her lack of religious conviction. She feels that God and Roy ...more
Sasha Martinez
This memoir has been on my TBR LandMass for about three years, ever since I bought it on a whim while I was hanging out at the bookstore one slow afternoon (I probably felt like I had to justify the space I took up there). And, well, it took me this long to read it, and thank goodness it was worth the wait–then again, I hadn’t waited, as much as I procrastinated.

In some editions, the book’s subtitle is A Memoir of the Child Left Behind–and that’s what Alison Smith was. When she was fifteen, the
Aug 17, 2013 Lydia rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ya-read, ya-lgbt
I really want to classify this novel as contemporary, but the time in it is a bit dated. The key is this novel made me cry.

Alison and her brother Roy were so close, despite their 2.5 years difference in age, that her mother called them "AlRoy". When Royden dies in a car crash, Alison is caught in a spiritual conundrum. Their entire family are highly bound in the Catholic religion and Alison is in wonder where and when her brother will return to her. In the process, Alison must also experience he
Jun 06, 2009 Candice rated it really liked it
This is a work of non-fiction, dealing with the effects of a young boy's death on his family. It is told from the point of view of his sister, Alison, who was 15 when her 18-year-old brother died. The book is saturated with grief, but is not depressing. It shows how everyone deals with grief in his or her own way.

The time frame takes Alison through her last three years of high school at a Catholic Girls' school in New York state and include her first romance.
Shay Caroline
Sep 07, 2015 Shay Caroline rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, lesbian
This reads so much like a novel that I had to keep reminding myself, at first, that it is a memoir. Alison is the youngest of two children in a very Catholic family. When she is fifteen and her brother is eighteen, he dies in a road accident. From that point on, at her Catholic high school and even at home, Alison becomes The Girl Whose Brother Died, even to herself. In fact, she begins slowly starving herself, hoping to simply fade away and join him.

Sad stuff, and I have to admit that it was h
Mar 30, 2016 Kimmy rated it liked it
Shelves: memoir, lgbtq
Name All the Animals starts out by throwing you into the day the author's older brother dies in a car accident. From there on it's a slow burning study of her parents coping methods and her own struggle with anorexia and high school. For some reason, for a lot of this book I felt like I was on the outside looking in and not really seeing the whole picture. I feel like the author could have done a better job telling what she was actually feeling instead of describing her actions and forcing us to ...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 25, 2009 Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance rated it really liked it
Alison Smith and her brother, Roy,
were as close as siblings can be
when they were children. Suddenly,
at eighteen, Roy is killed in a
terrible automobile accident. His
loss to the family is like an
enormous black hole, sucking
all the other members of the family
into never-never land.

This is the first book I've ever
received from a book publisher and
I was terrified I would hate it and
have to pan it. (sigh of relief)
Not a chance here. Alison Smith is
an excellent storyteller, with a
A very touching, loving memoir of a girl's struggle of life after the unexpected death of her brother and the story of her first love, a highly controversial one in her religious family & school.

At times, I found Alison Smith to be infuriating in her writing style. I can't explain exactly what set me off, I was just rubbed the wrong way. Such a tiny, almost insignificant problem though. Overall, this story was a unique coming-of-age tale intertwined with grief. Grief in the loss of her broth
Sep 02, 2010 April rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2010-reads
I am torn as to how to review/rate this book. It is not a novel. It represents someone's life. A memoir. I fall somewhere between a two star and three star rating. While there were some real take-your-breath-away moments, I found the book as a whole to be eh.

Wrapped in grief, it is the life story of a sister who lost her brother tragically in a car accident. From her side, we see how tragedy affects the entire family. How as "all the parents have left" her life is formidably changed forever. Sh
Oct 21, 2009 Lori rated it it was amazing
Alison Smith's memoir, Name All the Animals, is wonderful. It is not often that a writer can depict so much beauty through their words that you feel as if you are experiencing what they are going through. Smith is able to use the subject of her life at a particularly painful time and transport the reader through her imagery to feel her and her parents pain, confusion, struggle and resolution as a result of her brother's death. The memoir begins with the fifteen year old Smith, discovering her 18 ...more
Writer's Relief
Jun 28, 2012 Writer's Relief rated it really liked it
Alison Smith was sure of two things as a little girl: She loved her big brother Roy, and she believed in Jesus Christ. But following Roy’s sudden death in a car crash, Alison is left to face the world alone and, when she turns to God, she finds nothing.

Smith’s memoir starts out chronicling the aftermath of her brother’s tragic death—her parents’ immense grief, the newspaper articles detailing the gruesome crash, her own struggle to find her place in the world. It’s not until Alison is sent to a
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 28, 2011 Amanda rated it really liked it
As children, siblings Alison and Roy Smith were so close that their mother called them by one name: Alroy. But on a cool summer morning when Alison was fifteen, she woke to learn that Roy, eighteen, was dead. This is Smith's extraordinary account of the impact of that loss -- on herself, on her parents, and on a deeply religious community.

At home, Alison and her parents sleepwalk in shifts. Alison hoards food for her lost brother, hides in the backyard fort they built together, and waits for him
Jun 07, 2007 Glenn rated it really liked it
Shelves: memoir
Alison Smith’s “Name All the Animals” manages a very difficult balancing act. It is, to me, a tri-partite story. The main story of the terrible grief of losing a loved one, the events and impact of a strong religious faith both being practiced, tested and transformed, and the emerging sexual identity of a teenager, all during the period of grief following a great tragedy.

If Alison Smith failed to make any of the three legs of the story stand convincingly, the whole book would’ve toppled over. An
Jul 30, 2007 Amy added it
Recommends it for: anyone who likes memoirs
Shelves: memoirs
I'm currently on a memoir/creative non-fiction kick. I picked this one up with two others, and I could only get 1/2 through it. My inability to read it is not related to the writing. For me, it hit way too close to home.

The book is about a young girl whose brother (I think Roy is 17 or 18 and about to leave for college) is killed in a car accident. The book deals with the aftermath of the accident and the impact it has on her and her family.

This is the first time I've read a book where someone
May 23, 2015 Susanna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: memoir
I really loved this book. I loved the intertwining of the stories about Smith's family recovering from the loss of her brother, intertwined with her Catholic upbringing and the questions her brother's death raises for her, as well as some of her specific challenges of adolescence, from eating issues to first love. She uses lovely imagery of an abandoned house in the woods and her father's ritual of blessing his children to add great depth to the story. I'm not sure why it took me so long to read ...more
Sharon E.
Feb 05, 2016 Sharon E. rated it really liked it
The description of Catholic School life resonated with me although I only attended for 2 years. I fell in love with Alison, main character, story told in 1st person and I also could understand her feelings in dealing with loss, grief of a family member.
“Grief can blind you: it pulls loose the seam of memory. It weakens your senses.” There were many quotes, lines in book I loved. This is a favorite.
Bookmarks Magazine

The title refers to Adam in the Garden of Eden, an apt metaphor for Smith's imperfect, even devastating, coming of age. Critics loved this first memoir, heavy in themes but subtle in presentation. Although Smith focuses primarily on herself, her relationship with Roy--and, through vivid memories, Roy himself--form the narrative's backdrop. Some passages verge on the maudlin. Smith saves food for Roy, cherishes his old sneakers, and communes with him at night. Yet she describes her life without R

Nov 01, 2010 Isabel rated it liked it
I actually really liked this book a lot. I would have given it 4 stars if the ending gave me (the reader) a better sense of closure. I'm a closer kinda gal. I like things to be wrapped up.
I guess the memoir was supposed to truly focus on the author's handling of her brother's death. And in that does a great job, especially the question and answer section at the end of the book. But her sexuality begins to play an enormous role and there doesn't seem to be any explanation of how she and
Jul 04, 2009 Summer rated it did not like it
yikes! when my friend said this was depressing i was intrigued. i wanted to be totally moved by the angst but instead was depressed that someone bothered to publish it. the book was poorly written and left me with too many questions (like why should i care about any of this?). i was sad to read that the author almost went broke writing this and that it took her something like six years to complete. i was never fully attached to any character and could have cared less about the protagonist. i did ...more
May 30, 2012 Hayley rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 24, 2012 Valerie rated it really liked it
This was a great late-night read. Exactly as it said in the jacket cover - "expert pacing and narrative suspense". the book is especially compelling since its true. Alison's story of how her family fractured and slowly healed from the tragic loss of her brother in an auto accident. And found the will to live after a long struggle, and joy in a new , forbidden, romance. The insights about her parents' and greater community's devotion to their faith was inspiring. This is her first book - I expect ...more
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“In the dimly lit basement hall of Saints Peter and Paul’s Soup Kitchen, in the back alleys behind the bus station, in the urine-scented wards of the state mental hospital, I saw, firsthand, that it was possible to lose everything and still go on.” 0 likes
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