Smith's happy childhood came to an abrupt end when she was 15 and her 18-year-old brother, Roy, died in a car crash. Shy and studious, Alison and Roy had been so close that their parents had called them Alroy. ''While I waited for Roy to come back, my parents waited for the Next Terrible Thing,'' Smith writes in her strong, sad memoir of the three years following the tragedy. Roy didn't come back, of course, but Smith's parents did not wait in vain. Raised a devout Catholic, Smith lost her faith, which seemed to devastate her mom even more than Roy's death. Compounding the heresy, Smith fell in love with another girl, and the two were discovered in bed by a nun at her school. (''Lesbians will burn in hell,'' Smith's mother told her.) Smith isn't always convincing when she tries to tie the pieces of her adolescence together: Roy dies, ergo she becomes anorexic? Well, it might have happened anyway. But she's a beautiful writer, funny and wise, and she has made an unusually powerful book out of her grief.