Alice Bliss by Laura Harrington – what can I say? Despite the tears I loved this book! It is a novel of love, loss, beginnings, and endings. It is a coming of age story – Alice’s story. A story that not only portrays the agonies of a teen growing up but a teen growing up without her dad as he’s gone off to war. This novel take us to the heart of a family trying to survive and be normal after one leaves for war. Alice idolizes her father so when he makes the decision to enlist she is very upset. She can’t imagine life without her dad there to share in every moment. Alice and her father have always shared a special bond and all Alice wants to do is hold onto her father as long as she can but alas he has to leave far too soon.
Alice is a fifteen-year-old teenager experiencing all those teenage emotions and now there is the added stress of missing her dad. Alice and her mom Angie are at that stage where they don’t see eye to eye on much and it doesn’t help that Alice’s mom is really not standing up to her responsibility of caring for Alice and her younger sister Ellie. Yet Alice does the best she can getting the laundry done and getting meals for her and Ellie. All of them anxiously await phone calls or letters from Matt and gather all together to read them. Alice refuses to give up her dad’s shirt and wears it constantly. She wants to hold onto that special smell that only a dad’s shirt can have and right now that’s all she has of him. That and she shares his love of gardening. She is going to get the garden planted and thriving – she’ll make her dad proud.
Everyone tries to handle Matt’s absence as best they can. Angie throws herself into her work at the expense of her girls, Ellie being only eight decides to change herself by getting an new haircut and glasses. Alice takes up running and for her it is a true escape. She also relies on Henry who she’s been friends with since they were young kids and especially close after Alice’s best friend moved on to more popular people. As the story progresses we see Alice growing more mature and having to learn what life is all about long before she should have to. We experience her first embarrassing kiss with her and listen in as she struggles with those troublesome teenage emotions. Henry, for his part, is hopelessly in love with Alice and always has been. Will Alice ever realize it though and will she return that love?
This is just a beautiful book. Yes it is sad but much of life is or can be. Alice, for a teenager, is such a likeable character. She’s a good girl just trying to deal with growing up at a difficult time. The author manages to make us feel the pain and sorrow that Alice feels and that is the mark of a great author. I felt really connected to Alice and maybe that’s because I’ve always been a daddy’s girl myself. I could only imagine being in her shoes and the realization that so many young kids in our countries are without their parents because of the war really strikes deep. This was a book I could not put down. I stayed up until 2 am making sure to finish it because I had see how everything would end. A truly beautiful written book that is heartbreaking and hopeful at the same time and it is one that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend.
Source: Library copy.