When Alison Smith was 15, her beloved older brother Roy was killed in a car accident. She and her brother were so close growing up that their mother combined their names into the knickname “Alroy.” Grief tore her apart, shattering her deep religious faith and sending her into a physical and emotional tailspin. The memoir Name All the Animals details that struggle.
In the question-and-answer section at the end of the book, I learned that Alison was an adult when she began writing it. An aspiring novelist, she was looking for a book idea when her professor said “write about yourself.” She recalled thinking that nothing significant had ever happened to her. I share this because, after reading the book, I was haunted by Smith’s grief and couldn’t believe that she had recovered so thoroughly that she wasn’t still living with that sorrowful weight every day.
In fact, that would be my only criticism of the book: it ended too soon. After describing three years of grief so raw that she disconnected from her peers; saved half of every meal for her lost brother; and found solace in a relationship that her school and parents would never understand, let alone condone, Alison hit bottom. Believing there was no way to end the grief, she considered joining her brother. Thankfully, she did not follow through and the realization she had that day began the difficult journey toward peace. But I wanted to know more about how she carried on. We were with her for three years of sadness and despair, and I wanted to be with her for more of the healing. I feel like that would have given me more closure.
Despite that, Name All the Animals is a beautifully honest and vivid account. It’s 300 pages, but once you pick it up, it is hard to put down.