from Chapter Two

“I know who I want to be but doubt that I will become her.

As for friends, Alice seemed to feel a bit more in control of that situation.[1]  Alice seemed to choose a real variety of friends—this is something that almost all her teachers, family and friends commented upon. For example, although she maintained her friendships with the “popular group,” attending slumber parties and going to the pictures with them, one of her best girlfriends was a quiet girl called Mona from an extremely devout Christian family. Mona’s parents did not allow her to sleep away from the house and she could not go see any movies without supervision. Yet there seemed to be some kind of bond between the two girls that transcended their differences in social activities. They would go on bike rides to the top of the hill in the park and “discuss things.” Alice’s diary lists popular discussion topics as school, death, God, having babies and the importance of learning. They also played a game called “Right or Wrong,” which consisted of coming up with a difficult choice and then arguing over whether it was right or wrong. It began with more traditional scenarios such as stealing bread to feed a starving child, but Alice’s diary records a particularly difficult topic. She wrote,

I got Mona really good today. I said a man had killed Hitler when he was only five and therefore prevented all those people dying in the Holocaust. Right or wrong? She said it was wrong, that no one should kill anyone, especially a grown up shouldn’t kill a boy. I said, but Hitler killed tons of people and this man could have prevented that. Mona said but Hitler killed Jews, which really annoyed me, so I said, well if it weren’t for Hitler, we wouldn’t have had a world war and all those soldiers wouldn’t have died, including your grandpa. This was really clever since she is always saying how she talks to her grandpa in her prayers. In the end she said she couldn’t decide and we raced on the way home. I won.

Initially Alice’s family were suspicious of Mona, primarily due to her religious background. Deirdre told me that “although she tried to raise her children to be good Christians,” the truth of the matter is that the family never attended church nor were religious in any way, except when talking about death. When people died, they went to Heaven. In her diary Alice often wrote about “Joshua up in Heaven” or pondered what his life must be like as an angel. But this seems to be the extent of any religious influence in the house. This is not to suggest that the family was immoral or even amoral. Neighbours remember the family as very caring and compassionate. But organised religion played little part in the household. Eventually Alice’s parents accepted Mona. Deidre uses Mona as the first example of what she calls Alice’s “injured bird complex.” She said that Alice always liked to help people and sometimes she wondered if her daughter deliberately chose friends who were like injured birds she could then nurture back to health. Not all of Alice’s little birds was Deirdre willing to tolerate.

[1] Beth had moved away from Putnam before the start of seventh grade, which Alice described as “the best thing that ever happened to me. Maybe now I can do what I want for once in my life.”


from Chapter One

“I think I am not like many other children—I only wish this were a good thing.”[1]

Alice was born into a family which had already suffered loss. Three months before she was born, her older brother Joshua, almost two years old at the time, drowned in a pond on the property of a family friend. Her mother Deidre was naturally so distraught that there was concern about the welfare of the baby, and she was taken into Putnam General Hospital to recuperate. Alice’s father Henry was able to bring Deidre home after a month, and Alice was born safe and sound. She had, according to her mother, “blueish eyes” and “blondish hair.” Her family thought she was lovely, and she was healthy and responsive.

Although Deidre confesses that the death of Joshua more than devastated her husband and herself, they were determined that Alice not be put under any pressure to replace the child they had lost. Because Alice was already on the way (though her gender and name were not yet known to them), they felt that she was by then an individual member of the family. They never hid their memories of Joshua from their children (Amelia and Abigail were to follow in the next few years), and it appears that all three of the daughters dealt fairly well with the death of the sibling they never knew. Alice’s early journals mention him a few times but primarily in reference to the anniversary of his death, which the family always marked but not in an overly gloomy way.[2] At one point in her teens, she wrote that she liked a boy named Joshua at school and wondered if that was “weird” but he apparently turned out to be a “jerk of the highest degree,” and she did not contemplate any incestuous complications again.


[1] Chapter titles come from comments Alice made in her diaries.

[2] At age 12, Alice wrote “Today we all went out on a walk to the lake in the middle of the town to think about Joshua. It’s weird that he drowned. Even though he was older than me, he’ll always be small in his pictures. He will always seem like a baby to me. That’s weird.”