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THE NEW YORK TIMES BOOK REVIEW

"Makes time stand still and your coffee go cold beside you."

--Elissa Schappell,

The New York Times Book Review

NEWSWEEK

"Smith writes with such assured distance that this quiet examination of grief reads more like biography than autobiography, and displays a novelist's gift for revealing character."

--Newsweek

O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE

"Stunning...[a] story of survival and sexual awakening."

--O, The Oprah Magazine

BOOK

Below you will find the cover art for the English, Portuguese, German and Swedish editions.

 
 

EXCERPTS

FROM THE PUBLISHER

A luminous, poignant true story, Alison Smith's stunning first book, Name All the Animals, is an unparalleled account of grief and secret love: the tale of a family clinging to the memory of a lost child, and a young woman struggling to define herself in the wake of his loss.

 

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 to return. During the day, she breaks every rule at Our Lady of Mercy School for Girls, where the baffled but loving nuns offer prayer, Shakespeare, and a job running the switchboard. In the end, Alison finds her own way to survive: a startling and taboo first love that helps her discover a world beyond the death of her brother.

 

An intimate book written in clear-eyed prose, Name All the Animals announces a brilliant new writer with a keen insight into the emotional life of the American family, the power of sibling love and loyalty, and the excruciating joy of first, forbidden love. Smith tells the story through her own fifteen-year-old eyes, with such expert pacing and narrative suspense that readers will find the book hard to put down.

 

Heartbreaking but hopeful, this is ultimately a book less about loss than it is about love -- about the excitement and anguish of Alison's first love, about her parents' enduring romance, about a community's passion for its faith, and about a well-loved boy who dies too young. A fiercely beautiful, redemptive book, it is sure to be a classic.

Patch was named for the sectioning of the ice into six-by-eight-foot strips or patches. The first thing to do when you get to your assigned patch is carve two adjacent circles, using an instrument called a scribe (which looks like an overgrown compass). On that huge number eight you try to skate the perfect figure. It's harder than it looks -- keeping the cut line of the blade arced, the skate moving at a good clip, never straying from the two circles. It was my favorite part of the day: the collective silence of concentration, drilling over and over a single blade turn, the subtle weight shifts, from front to back, right to left. This measured intricacy, the repetitive devotion it required -- it was the closest you could get to praying on ice.

In late July, three months after I started my indoor skating career, I had an accident during morning Patch Hour. While practicing the 180-degree turn in the center of the eight, I slipped and fell. Sixteen pairs of eyes looked up from their patches and stared at me. I tried to stand up. My leg warmers slid down over my heels. I moved to adjust them, and then I saw it. In the center of the eight, at the fulcrum of the north and south circles, lay a spot of blood. A darkening stain ran across the crotch of my skating dress. I crossed my legs.

CHAPTER 1

FAMILY PHOTOS

A solitary child, Roy did not like to socialize with other children. He preferred to be alone or in my company. We started school at St. Thomas More. Father chose it out of all the area Catholic schools because he liked the janitorial staff. Some parents interview the teachers or the principal; ours interviewed the custodians. They believed that a well-cleaned school was a good school."

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"Throughout our childhood, Roy and I had built four separate forts on that same secret spot. He was a perfectionist and insisted we tear down the old one each spring and start from scratch. The forts were our territory, off limits to the adults, except for early in the construction process when Father was enlisted to take Roy to the lumberyard pick out his new two-by-fours and plywood."

page 21

"Mother had a policy for living that she often shared with her children. Her trim figure perched on the edge of a lawn chair, she would lean back in one of her rare moments of reflection, the bright sun caressing her face, and say, 'Keep the best and forget the rest.' Not once did I hear her complain about the poverty of her childhood, about her parents' broken marriage, or her own early loneliness. She was a jolly and playful woman with a quick laugh and a ready smile."

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