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Name All the Animals: A Memoir

3.67  ·  Rating details ·  2,942 Ratings  ·  257 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 are ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published February 22nd 2005 by Scribner (first published January 1st 2004)
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Tracy Rhodes
Mar 22, 2007 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
...more
Richard Gilbert
Feb 15, 2012 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
...more
Saipriya
Sep 12, 2012 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
...more
Dinah
Aug 01, 2011 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
Amy
Oct 24, 2007 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
...more
Candace
Feb 17, 2012 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
soulAdmitted
Voto affettivo, in una prospettiva felicemente compressa.
L'estranea Alison Smith si fa avvicinare come una compagna di strada dimenticata di cui ti potresti rinnamorare in qualsiasi momento. Il che non è necessariamente poco.
Kristen Chavis
Jan 20, 2011 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
Meegan Soule'
Mar 19, 2009 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
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
...more
Diane
Dec 11, 2011 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
Lydia
Apr 04, 2012 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
...more
Kimmy
Mar 10, 2016 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
Candice
Jun 06, 2009 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
Aug 16, 2015 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
...more
Lori
Oct 21, 2009 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
Tima
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
...more
Kate
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
momruncraft
Aug 30, 2010 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
...more
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Jul 25, 2009 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
perfect
...more
Glenn
Jun 07, 2007 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
...more
Amy
Jul 30, 2007 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
...more
Amanda Bynum
Mar 28, 2011 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
...more
Writer's Relief
Jun 20, 2012 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
...more
Kathryn
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kate Savage
This book is about death and sexuality and faith and bodies, and also it's a memoir. That means it has all my favorite things, besides maybe invertebrates. But something needled me about it -- the writing style is more dependent on big on-the-nose metaphors than tight prose, and time kind of lulls by. I nearly put the book aside at the beginning ("ok, this is a book about grieving a dead brother, which is important but not where my mind is right now"), but felt my interest return as the narrator ...more
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

...more
Isabel
Oct 30, 2010 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 case...it 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
...more
Brisbride13
I very rarely start a book and not finish it, but after three attempts Im giving up. I dont know where the disconnect is but Im just utterly bored with this book. Allison loses her brother in a car accident and no one talks about it. She sneaks food for him and takes it out to the fort where the two of them hung out. Dad turns even more to Jesus and Mom takes up jogging. It sounded like a touching story; Ive been on a memoir and biography kick lately but just couldnt wrap myself at all around th ...more
Valerie
May 11, 2012 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.” 1 likes
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