Friday, June 24, 2011

Review : Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington

About the book:
When Alice learns that her father, Matt Bliss, is being deployed to Iraq she’s heartbroken. Alice idolizes her dad, working beside him in their garden, accompanying him on the occasional roofing job, playing baseball.  After Matt ships out, her mother begins to crumble under the pressure of suddenly being a single parent and Alice struggles to fill the void as she balances the drama of adolescence with the effort of keeping her family together.
But Alice is supported by a safety net strung with relationships, including almost boyfriends, a grandmother, a baker with too many children, her track coach, her kid sister, her Uncle Eddie, and even her well meaning but complicated mom. She will learn to drive, plant her father’s garden, and fall in love, all while trying to be strong for her mother, and take care of her precocious little sister, Ellie. But the smell of Matt is starting to fade from his blue shirt that Alice wears everyday and his infrequent phone calls are never long enough.

My Thoughts:

Alice Bliss is a debut novel  by Laura Harrington which shares the untold story of what happens to those left behind when a man goes off to war in Iraq. Alice is a typical 15 year old teenager who is extremely close to her father Matt who is in the reserves. They must  deal with the painstaking truth that  Matt has been deployed to Iraq.  Matt wants to make a difference in the world as he enlists in the reserves and holds a fine line of allegiance to both the army and his wife and two girls. 

Alice grows into a young woman during her father's absence. She is fighting it most of the way as she has to look after her younger sister, make sure that there is food on the table as her mother struggles with her own emotions and attend high school. Alice tells this story in daily entries as she plans to attend her first dance, falls in love, and even learns to drive. She struggles along the way as letters and phone calls from Matt are sparse and just not enough to fill that hole in her heart.  

Alice Bliss is a coming of age story that is important at this time as many young girls and boys as well as families and communities , are left behind to  face the realities and losses as a result of war. We get a glimpse into the lives of those affected during this difficult time and the realities that one must face. This novel is heartbreaking at times, yet filled with promise and strength through the eyes of a young girl named Alice. I found Alice honest and endearing and exemplified an amazing bond between father and daughter. At times, Matt's character seemed almost too good to be true, a father that everyone, including myself would want to have. He seemed to have an innate sense of what the women in his life needed and he had just the right words to say and he left behind beautiful words of wisdom in letters. The novel did not clearly state a year but it had to be sometime in the past 10 years. There was a presence of an old time feel in the novel that could be related to other war times.  I could picture similar experiences and emotions that could possibly relate to WWII or the Vietnam War.  Alice Bliss is full of rich storytelling and characters that will touch your heart, make sure to pick up  a copy and keep the tissue box handy.

This would be a great book to read with a book club, check out:

Make sure to check out the author, Laura Harrington's Website for more information.

Alice Bliss has had some major recognition:

  • Alice Bliss is a People Pick with 4 out of 4 stars in the July 4th issue of People Magazine.
  • Alice Bliss is listed in “The Best Reads of the Summer” in Entertainment Weekly 
  • Alice Bliss is A Discover Great New Writers pick for Fall 2011 at Barnes & Noble Booksellers
Thanks to Pamela Dorman Books/Viking/Penguin for sending me a copy of this book. 

Check back tomorrow for a Q&A with Laura Harrington author of Alice Bliss and a Giveaway for a chance to win your own copy of Alice Bliss!

Here is a great interview with Laura Harrington, discussing Alice Bliss with Good Morning Gloucester:


  1. What a great review and I'm excited because I have a copy of this one to read soon!

  2. Not my cup of tea, although I realize that this is a very big topic right now.

    My nephew enlisted with the air force and then found out his wife was pregnant with daughter #2. He missed her birth even though he wasn't deployed, just in training but his wife became a single parent rather quickly.

  3. Please enter me at bookmark60 at hotmail dot com. My brother is in Iraq, he was also in Afghanistan. He has two young children. I always wondered what it would be like for his children or for anybody's children that are left behind when the soldiers are deployed. Thank you for hosting.


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