ALICE BLISS – Laura Harrington


by Laura Harrington
Pamela Dorman Books (Viking) – June 2011
320 pages; $25.95

Does everyone have a secret life, she wonders? Is everyone carrying an impossible, unbearable secret?” -Alice Bliss

The Bliss family is your typical American family. Mom, Dad and two daughters; Alice 15, and Ellie, a precocious 8, living in upstate New York. The story begins when the family learns that Matt Bliss, a New York Army Reservist, is being called to active duty to fight in Iraq. Emotions and fear understandably take hold, and the reader observers each family member deal with the situation in their unique way.

Once Matt ships off, the family tries to maintain some sense of normality. But, as hard as they try, the Bliss family finds themselves just going through the daily motions of life. School, work, and family/social life becomes infected with the stain of Matt’s absence. Communication is limited and mostly in the form of letters, that become ever more precious, to each family member, as time begins to draw on. Until the letters and calls stop.

She opens the door to a soldier in his twenties who immediately takes off his hat, revealing an extremely new haircut. He is flanked by another soldier twice his size. “I’m Sergeant Walker Ames. This is Army Chaplain McMurphy.”…He is eerily, almost creepily calm Alice thinks, as her mind races to take in all the possibilities of what his presence on her front stoop mean.”

In the midst of this tumultuous time the book’s main character, Alice, is at that awkward stage of beginning to grow into herself. Author Laura Harrington beautifully captures that delicate balance between young womanhood and the waning child with Alice. From discovering her body, learning to drive, love, and loss Alice’s experience will surely touch and move every reader.

Alice lifts her head and opens her eyes and looks at her father. Now she can’t get enough of looking at him. He is not the same; he is not the same at all. But what there is, what there still is, right here in front of her, close enough to touch, is this broken body, this man, this soldier. Her father. Hers.”

The beauty in Alice Bliss is Harrington’s ability to create a character that transcends the page and enters the reader’s heart. Keep the tissues nearby, but also know that this is a story of hope. Alice Bliss is one of those rare gems of a read that will remain with the reader for a long long time to come.

For more information on Alice Bliss, please visit the publisher’s website by clicking HERE.

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9 Responses to ALICE BLISS – Laura Harrington

  1. Teresa says:

    I am really looking forward to reading this. Great review.

  2. Lisa Roberts says:

    I love your review and want to read ASAP. I checked my library and no one has it. Ugh! Maybe I’ll have to break down and actually buy a book. Thanks for the review. I can’t wait to read it. BTW, I am pretty sure we met at BOTNS retreat; does your avatar look just like you?

    • Jason G. says:

      Hi Lisa – I didn’t get to make it to the retreat sadly! But indeed I do look like my avatar 😉
      Thanks for the kind words and taking the time to comment.
      I say GO OUT AND BUY IT NOW because you’ll want to own this book.
      Please let me know what you think if you do get to reading it.

  3. This one doesn’t really sound like my thing, mostly because I don’t like how emotional the third-person narration seems, and that’s kind of a pet peeve of mine. The premise of a family in crisis reminds me a lot of Joe Meno’s The Great Perhaps, though, which is about a family who is having its own nervous breakdown while each family member has a sort of breakdown and simultaneous emotional growth spurt. I liked how The Great Perhaps showed each family member’s point of view, rotating each chapter to the next character, so I’m a little intrigued to see how it’s handled in Alice Bliss. Maybe I’ll check it out of the library someday.

  4. Jill says:

    I just downloaded this onto my nook last night and I’m excited to read it, based on your review and your twitter comments about it a couple of weeks back. Everyone seems to be just loving it. I’ll buy some extra tissues!

    • Jason G. says:

      Hi Jill!
      I really can’t wait to hear your thoughts. I’m telling you maybe it was the fact that it was 2am, maybe my allergies were really
      bad (which they are), but I was a balling mess.
      It’s just so apropos of the current war climate we face today, and I wonder how many other families are experiencing what
      the Bliss family did. (even though this is fiction)
      Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

  5. Pingback: BrainCandy Book Review: June 7, 2011 | Laura Harrington Books

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