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Alice Bliss: A Novel Hardcover – June 2, 2011

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Editorial Reviews


Chosen as a “People Pick” by People Magazine, a “Listeners’ Top Book Pick” by NPR’s On Point with Tom Ashbrook, for the Barnes & Noble’s “Discover Great New Writers” program, as an Entertainment Weekly "Best Reads of the Summer," as a Publishers Weekly First Fiction title, and was the winner of the Massachusetts Book Award in Fiction in 2012

“Harrington creates nothing less than a fully realized vision of a young complicated girl.” --Entertainment Weekly

“I put down this book and thought, there is no one like this beautiful, feisty girl, so fully has Harrington brought Alice Bliss to life. The great sorrow, of course, is that there are many Alice Blisses out there. The power of Harrington’s richly delineated novel lies in putting a girl like Alice before us and asking us to remember how many others are staring down the long hall of adulthood with a father or a mother gone to war.”  --Sarah Blake, bestselling author of The Postmistress

“There are thousands of American kids like Alice, facing down their teen years with a parent gone to war. Her story is harrowing and heartbreaking, but it reads like truth.” --People (Four Stars)

“This book may be the Our Town of the twenty-first century.” --Anne Roiphe, bestselling author of Epilogue: A Memoir

“Though the fluid narration offers access to many characters, this is the story of Alice, her courage, fear, and optimism, and her heartbreaking discovery of the extent to which her father’s life will shape and guide her own.” --Publishers Weekly

“Heartbreaking yet edged with promise, Alice Bliss explores the wounds of war, love, and family bonds while illuminating the strength of a young girl’s spirit. A stunning debut.” --Beth Hoffman, New York Times bestselling author of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt

"Through the eyes of 15-year-old Alice Bliss, Laura Harrington brings to life the impact of war on our nation's most vulnerable. A beautifully told story about life, loss and the gift of unconditional love." --Tanya Biank, author of Army Wives

“This is a remarkably sensitive first novel, full of splendid characterizations … It’s a heartbreaker—have tissues at hand—with promise shining through the pain.” --Booklist (starred)

“You won’t see Iraq in these pages … [Harrington’s] book, in the end, really isn’t about this war. It’s about kids and fathers, about growing up with decent values and then being shaken hard and having to figure it out from there. It’s a very fine book, and if rips your heart out, that’s not a bad thing.”
--Jesse Kornbluth, Headbutler 

“A powerful, wrenching story that reads as simple, unadorned truth.” --School Library Journal (A Best of the Year So Far in the “Best Books 4 Teens” category)

“Alice Bliss adroitly illustrates the burden of war, not only on those deployed, but also on those left behind. And without saying so explicitly. Realistic in its portrayal of family dynamics, community life, and response to major life events, the story of Alice Bliss would be a helpful read for families whose loved one(s) are deployed.” --New York Journal of Books

“Alice is a true heroine: intelligent, passionate, strong-minded. Watching her find her way is an absorbing pleasure.”  --Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street

“Meet Alice Bliss, the heroine of Laura Harrington’s gorgeous page-turner of a first novel. Like Scout in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, Alice is destined to become a household name. In luminous, haunting prose Harrington enters the minds and hearts of all of her characters, imbuing her story with a timeless wisdom.” --Charlotte Gordon, author of The Woman Who Named God and Mistress Bradstreet

Alice Bliss is a poignant tale about the homefront horrors of war when a father leaves his wife and two girls for a tour of duty in Iraq. It is a touching reminder of our need for community to help those left behind find inner peace in a time of war.” --JoeAnn Hart, author of Addled

 “Strong storytelling and a rich emotional core.” --Jenny Downham, author of Before I Die

“Laura Harrington writes with grace, humor, and uncanny wisdom about loss and resilience and the workings of the human heart.  Alice’s is a voice we need to hear, telling a story that lights up a dark corner of the sky.  ALICE BLISS is unforgettable.” --Rachel Kadish, author of From a Sealed Room and Tolstoy Lied

“An incredibly poignant story. [Harrington’s] portrayal of what families face when a loved one is deployed makes the novel appealing for males and females, adults and teens, alike.” --ALAN’s Picks --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Laura Harrington is an award-winning playwright, lyricist, and librettist. She teaches playwriting at MIT and lives in Gloucester, Massachusetts. This is her first novel. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books; First Edition edition (June 2, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670022780
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670022786
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1.1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (61 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #976,594 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By McGuffy Ann Morris on June 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Alice Bliss is a teen-aged girl. She is also a "Daddy's Girl". When her Reservist father is shipped out to Iraq, she is heartbroken. Finding one of his shirts in the clothes hamper and begins to wear it, much to the dismay of her mother and embarrassment of her sister.

In her grief, she searches for a ways to fill the void he leaves behind. Alice joins the track team, much to her own surprise. Growing into a young woman in her father's absence, she also attends her first dance, and falls in love. She is doing all of this without her father. Letters and phone calls are not ever enough, and his scent on the shirt is fading. It is hard for Alice to be strong for herself, much less for her mother and sister. They are dealing with his absence in their own ways.

Laura Harrington has written a coming of age story that is important for our time, with today's harsh reality of war and loss. She gives us a glimpse of people who are living through things that we all do, in a time that is especially difficult. Yet she offers hope through characters we can relate to.

Love is the ultimate healer, in its many forms. Alice Bliss and Laura Harrington remind us of this in a very warm and poignant book.
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Format: Hardcover
Tell me you wouldn't react as I did.

The name of the novel is "Alice Bliss." That is, not surprisingly, the name of the 14-year-old main character, who lives with her parents and younger sister in a lovely town in upstate New York. And then, just before the Surge, her father's National Guard unit is called up, and off he goes to Iraq.

Alice Bliss. Think she gets to keep that bliss? Really? You'd lay money down on that?

Although "Alice Bliss" is my favorite length for a book --- short --- you're damn right I did not want to read this novel. But the Viking publicist wouldn't stop working me. And then the author e-mailed me on another topic entirely. And so, riddled with guilt, I picked it up.

Here's how it starts:

This is the first time Alice has been allowed to walk back to their campsite from the Kelp Shed alone. She is fourteen, barefoot, her sneakers tied together by the laces and slung across her shoulder so she can feel the soft sandy dust of the single track road between her toes. Her sister Ellie fell asleep halfway through the square dance, dropping from hyper excitement to unconscious in a flash. Her father carries Ellie draped over his shoulder and casually, or so it seems, her mother says, "Come home when the dance is done."

In form, in style, this is everything that drives me nuts: leisurely, traditional storytelling, lovingly detailed, with characters as corny as Kansas.

I'm a big believer in dropping books that don't grab me right off into the Goodwill bag a foot from my desk. But I didn't. I read on to discover that Matt Bliss --- Alice's father --- has a dream of a life. He likes to say that he "escaped from his career and got himself a job.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Nikki (Wicked Awesome Books) on June 6, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Alice Bliss is one of those sincere, slow-moving, but rewarding and well-written novels. It centers on the Bliss family - 15 year old Alice in particular - who are struggling with life after the family's patriarch and Alice's father, Matt, ships off to war. The novel is very much a character-driven story; its driving force being Alice and her actions, reactions, and emotions about her father's deployment; with her mother Angie, her younger sister Ellie, Gram, Uncle Eddie, and best friend Henry all contributing to Alice's life without Matt in it.

Alice comes off as very young in the beginning of the book, so much so that I didn't realize she was a high school student. As her voice takes hold though, it's evident. Her love and closeness to her father are also brought into striking focus. Alice adores her father and life without him is killing her. She is close to Matt, he understands her, he shows his love for her in ways that Angie never does. This brings out the age old quarrels in the mother/daughter relationship. Alice and Angie do not get along. They love each, but they don't really like each other all that much. Matt's absence only heightens the tension in their relationship.

Alice wavers between sadness and anger towards her father, missing him, but hating him for leaving her. She loses the person she was before he left, just as her mother does. The two of them don't know who they are in the absence of the person that means so much to them. For Alice, this time is full of growth. She begins to realize that she's not a little girl anymore. She's strong, despite her tears, weak, in spite of her independence. It's this push and pull that fully immerses the reader in her life.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Charlotte Lynn on June 11, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The tears flowed while reading this book. Highly recommend keeping Kleenex nearby!

I do not believe I have ever read a book written in the point of view of a teenager. What a great experience! I could feel what she was feeling as I am a mother to a teenager.

This book shows the intimate story of a family whose father is called to active duty in a time of war. Laura Harrington amazing book, Alice Bliss, tells the life story of a teenage "Daddy's Girl", Alice Bliss, struggling with her father, Matt, being shipped out of upstate New York with his National Guard unit to Iraq. She misses all the time they spent playing baseball, working in the garden, and helping him with an occasional working job. She realizes life does go on even if her dad isn't there to witness it. Alice joins the track team, attends her first dance, and falls in love, all while missing her dad terribly. The change from tomboy to young woman was very poignant. Alice, while trying to remain strong, finds that she has to take care of her sister and her mother. The mother, Angie, seems to drop the ball a few times I found I could not blame her. Ellie, Alice's younger sister, appears to not be as affected but definitely feels the loss of her dad and becomes closer to her mother.

In this book you hear and feel the ups and downs that a family goes through when the father is called to active duty in a time of war. I was in tears reading Alice Bliss. Trying to imagine ho w I would react and keep my life going in I was put in this position tugged at my heart. Alice Bliss tells the story of what many families in America are going through. It opened my eyes and made me appreciate the families of military persons.

If you manage to make it through the book without tears you can still feel all the fear, loneliness, and losses of the Bliss Family. You can also feel the love and the hope they have for each other.
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