When I first read about this book over on Dawn’s website, I was immediately intrigued. Normally, I really love a well constructed coming of age tale, but the fact that this book was so timely and topical made me even more eager to explore it. When I was contacted to review the book, I learned of the Where’s Alice Bliss? project, which is an attempt to get the book into the hands of as many people as possible with the help of bookcrossing.org. After having read and thoroughly enjoyed my copy of Alice Bliss, I am now in the process of registering my book and releasing it into the wild for another reader to enjoy and pass along.
This was an extremely powerful book, and through the use of flashbacks, direct and powerful writing, and a strong emotional core story, the story of Alice and her family is shared in a way that was not only affecting, but ultimately sobering and full of intensity. Alice was a lovely character who was not only recognizably a teenager in her attitude and angst, but who was also remarkably well rounded and loyal to the father whom she so loved. As Alice repeatedly reflects on the lessons that her father has taught her, she goes to great lengths to accomplish the tasks that would normally be his to complete. The sections that detailed Alice’s impatience to create the winter garden in just the way her father had taught her were filled with the inexpressible reverence that Alice has for her father. By trying to emulate his work ethic and tasks, Alice was paying her father the utmost honor and compliment in a time when she was brokenhearted over his absence.
Alice’s relationship with her mother was much more complex. I think to some degree every teenage girl has issues with her mother at times, but in this story, Harrington allows her readers to see that Alice’s grievances towards her mother were at least in some measure deserved. It was interesting to read this book and realize that I sympathized with the young female teenage protagonist rather than the parental figure, and can only conclude that Harrington did such a marvelous job in creating Alice in such a realistic vein that I felt her anger and confusion as my own. I can’t say I really liked Alice’s mother all that much, as I felt she could be too self-focused and selfish at times. I cannot presume to understand what life might be like for a woman whose husband is serving overseas, but to me, Alice’s mother came off as somewhat devoid of empathy for her two daughters who were obviously struggling.
The extended cast of characters were very well executed as well, and I found that Harrington created a full compliment of realistic and human characters with whom to surround her starring family. I particularly liked Alice’s uncle Eddie and the way he took the family under his wing as a male caregiver when Matt’s absence began to be truly felt. It was also surprising that Harrington decided not to shy away from a very emotional and heartrending plot line when push came to shove. This wasn’t an easy story to read at times, and there were moments when I was reduced to tears in contemplating the lives of the Bliss family.
While this was a more serious book that I had initially expected, I think it’s definitely an important and relevant read for today’s time. While there was a tremendous amount of emotional growth in the titular character of Alice, the book also examined the way war can change the landscape of a family and a community. A highly intelligent and emotionally moving read, and one that I would highly recommend.
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.