Oh, Alice Bliss. If only I’d known ahead of time . . . or maybe not. This isn’t a story one can prepare for, and it’s not one from which a person can turn away. ALICE BLISS is a slice of life—a timely American classic from the day the words first hit the page. A story that is not only “now,” but also ageless. One of life and love and letting go, of moving on and healing and reaching for life through those hours that seem the darkest and equally those of blinding sun.
Alice Bliss the character is a fifteen year old girl saying goodbye to a father who, as a Reservist, was never “supposed” to go to war. Existing as a pre-teen girl is a shaky habit at best, but nothing in Alice’s adolescent world has anything on the wrenching act of taking away Matt Bliss. This love—this beautiful, agonizing love between father and daughter—is carved into every nuance of the story . . . into every fiber of Alice.
ALICE BLISS the book is the story of a family desperately trying to rearrange the pieces left behind when a parent is deployed. So much remains the same—the sun rises and sets and the seasons change—but under it all is a threadbare, patchwork attempt at normalcy. It’s as if no matter how they fit together the pieces, there’s always that hole . . . full of hope. Full of anguish. It’s the story, truly, of those who are left behind to “serve” from home—the families who love and wait and worry without choice. Without end.
In Matt’s absence, the Bliss family dynamic hits the skids. Mom Angie is falling apart, any façade she manages to pull together for her day job lost between her car and the front door of her home. She withdrawals, leaving Alice to take care of her younger sister Ellie with the help of Gram and Uncle Eddie, himself a character and a half. And there’s Henry, the boy next door who is equally bewildered and awed by his changing relationship with Alice, though it’s doubtful he is more confused than she.
The frequent clashes between Alice and Angie—over Matt’s garden, his shirt, his space—are perhaps most poignant, as it’s easy for the reader to see how desperately they each love Matt, yet in such different ways their own relationship remains tenuous at best. Indeed, it’s because of those diverse threads that the few moments Alice and Angie share in understanding are so beautiful, so great in magnitude. And just exactly as they should be.
This is the kind of story that can deepen the reader’s sense of self, but not with its depth. It truly is a glimpse of the every day—the extraordinary every day—with a talent for bringing things into crisp focus. Laura Harrington’s ALICE BLISS is not one a reader can walk away from unchanged. It’s a unique look—both timely and timeless—of a world in which far too many families live.
ALICE BLISS defies summation. It’s almost certainly unlike anything you’ve ever read, and as such, it’s absolutely unforgettable.
It’s really that simple, but it is, incredibly, so much more.