The Kids Are All Right, published in 2009, is the memoir of Diana, Liz, Amanda, and Dan Welch.
The memoir alternates between the voices of the four siblings and tells the story of the siblings’ separation and subsequent reunion following their parents’ deaths. Each of the Welch children remembers the story somewhat differently. Diana and Liz, who did the writing, highlight these differences of opinion in an effort to emphasize the subjectivity of memory and experience.
At the beginning of The Kids Are All Right, the Welch children are living a privileged life with wealthy parents, a businessman and a soap opera actress. In 1982, their father dies in a car accident. Afterward, the children and their mother learn that his business was suffering. Local gossips speculate that his “accident” was a business-related murder or suicide, but neither claim is proven.
Just as the children’s mother begins to settle into her new role as sole parent and provider for the family, she is diagnosed with cancer. Over the next several years, her health deteriorates. Amanda and Liz, the eldest of the Welch children, take care of her and the younger kids. Left without parental guidance, they party a great deal.
When their mother dies in 1985, the kids are forced onto separate paths. Amanda, the eldest, is nineteen and legally an adult. She immerses herself in New York’s drug and music culture for several years before opting for a simpler life and moving to a farm in Virginia. Liz, sixteen when her mother dies, goes to live with the family for whom she babysits. She continues partying, but she also pursues travel and education opportunities. Dan, who is fourteen when he loses his mother, is sent to boarding school and is shuffled through several temporary homes. He gets deeply involved in drugs and drug dealing.
The three older Welch siblings visit each other and their relatives regularly, providing support for each other during hard times. However, they are cut off from Diana, their youngest sister. Diana is only eight years old when her mother dies, and she is sent to live with a family that denies her siblings the right to visit. Diana and her new mother, Mrs. Chamberlain, do not get along. After several years, Mrs. Chamberlain abruptly reopens communication with the older Welch children and sends Diana to live with Amanda.
Although they are upset by Mrs. Chamberlain’s actions, the older Welch siblings are thrilled to accept Diana back in their lives. They re-establish family ties by telling stories they remember from childhood as well as stories they know about their parents. The book ends with Diana listening hungrily to these stories, asking her brothers and sisters to tell more.