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Alice Bliss

Harrington, Laura, 1953-

(Book - 2011)
Average Rating: 4 stars out of 5.
Alice Bliss
Print
When Alice Bliss learns that her father is being deployed to Iraq, she's heartbroken. Alice idolizes her father, loves working beside him in their garden, accompanying him on the occasional roofing job, playing baseball. When he ships out, Alice is faced with finding a way to fill the emptiness he has left behind. Matt will miss seeing his daughter blossom from a tomboy into a full-blown teenager. Alice will learn to drive, join the track team, go to her first dance, and fall in love, all while trying to be strong for her mother, Angie, and take care of her precocious little sister, Ellie.
Publisher: New York : Pamela Dorman Books/Viking, 2011
ISBN: 0670022780
9780670022786
Branch Call Number: FIC H
Characteristics: 306 p. ; 22 cm.

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Jan 26, 2013
  • Michael Colford rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

With Alice Bliss, Laura Harrington takes a fairly basic theme, the loss of a loved one, and creates a powerful coming-of-age story in a fully-realized community. When Alice's father, Matt, enlists in the armed services and is stationed in Iraq, she is bereft. Her father is the one family member who knows her and understands her the best. Fully immersed in adolescence, Alice's relationship with her mother, Agnes, is complicated, besides with Agnes is dealing with her own fears about her husband. Then there's her younger sister, Ellie, who's just too young to really understand what's going on.

Harrington's novel focuses on Alice, turning the loss of her father into a powerful transition to adulthood, but what is truly remarkable is the way she effortlessly slips into the minds of the many other important characters in the book who are profoundly affected by Matt's absence. Matt leaves his family right at the beginning of the book, but his presence is overwhelming throughout. Through reminiscences Harrington brings Matt fully to life, showing how strong his ties to each of the females in his life, and how different. Beyond the rich characterization of Alice and her family, Harrington does the same for the community they live in. Henry is the awkward boy next door, who has been Alice's best friend practically from birth, and whose relationship with Alice is suddenly changing. Uncle Eddie is Agnes' charismatic, devil-may-care brother who finds his role in Alice's extended family evolving. Alice's Gram who owns the local coffee shop must suffer her own loss while bolstering the floundering family. Even minor characters, like Mrs. Piantowski who bakes the bread for Gram's coffee shop, or Mrs. Minty who has suffered tragedies of her own become startlingly real under Harrington's skillful guidance.

Rarely have characters in a novel come so alive for me. Harrington's story follows a lovely arc, with the ending in particular, hitting a series of beautifully drawn notes. A truly successful debut from a talented writer.

Jul 06, 2012
  • annem123 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

This is considered Young Adult fiction though it could easily pass as Adult fiction. This is incredibly well written. The POV is third person omniscient. That is hard to write. The writer doesn't overdo it and the reader knows who's POV is being discussed. The main character Alice is likeable and truly misses her father (who is a solider in Iraq). The surrounding characters are good people. What I especially liked about this book is that the characters are believable and normal - they are all dealing with Matt Bliss going to war. The only character I had issues with was the mother - Angie Bliss. She seemed weak and self-centered. Highly recommend this book for anyone who has family or friends in war.

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