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Alice Bliss: A Novel

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  • Posted June 6, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Will Break Your Heart and Put It Back Together Again

    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.

    Laura Harrington skillfully captures the ups and downs of family and the good and bad in every relationship. Matt is overseas, fighting a war, missing in a war, and Angie can barely bring herself to cook dinner for her children. She's shut down because she's lonely and scared and has no idea how to raise a hormonal, attitudinal, and angry 15 year old, while still caring for a precocious 8 year old, a house, working her job, and paying the bills. She's lost. This feeling resonates well throughout Alice Bliss, bringing the reader to a precipice of emotion.

    Told in the passage of days, weeks, months, with letters to and from Matt interspersed throughout, Alice Bliss will grab ahold of the reader's heart and squeeze until you can do nothing else but hold onto its characters and hope for the best. Each chapter, each day that passes, brings more sorrow and more uncertainty for the Bliss' that are left behind, but the resounding message of hope, despite insurmountable odds, is felt in every turn of the page; in every imagined or remembered word from a father to a daughter, a husband to a wife.

    Alice Bliss is a heartbreaking and moving portrayal of a family trapped in a war that's both far from home and right at their front door. Laura Harrington has broken down the walls that separate those unaffected by war from those who live with it every day, by dropping every insecurity, every fear, every nightmare, and every hope in the laps of readers with Alice Bliss. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll yearn for closure that seems so out of reach, but you'll appreciate how each downfall leads to an ultimately uplifting end.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 7, 2011

    I Also Recommend:


    "Alice Bliss" is a story that will touch the hearts and souls of every American reader, every family that has ever lost someone to war. Matt Bliss wanted to live life taking care of his family but he felt he owed something to his country. This is a heartbreaking and moving portrayal of a family trapped in a war that's both far from home and also right in front of them. The family is faced with insecurity, fear, every imaginable nightmare, but ultimately hope. A character-driven story, Alice, a 15 year old girl is the major protagonist, 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 playing a significant part in Alice's life without "Dad" in it. This is a moving story that certainly is befitting our lives in America at the moment.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 21, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Ask yourself every day - what can I do to support the military and their family?

    When Matt Bliss made good choices to support his country as well as his family he never imagined the impact it would have on any of them. Joining the Army National Guard provided extra income, which everyone saw as a plus until the reality of war came knocking and Matt was called up to serve because they desperately needed boots on the ground, even those filled by an Engineer.

    His wife is unsure how to cope without him and his daughter's especially seventh grader Alice cannot deal with their father being away. Alice and her father have always been close and having him not there to discuss the garden layout or work on a project is breaking her heart. He wants to share his life with her but Matt knows he has to keep in mind he may not be there to do that and Alice try as she might does not want to hear any of this.

    Matt ships off and those left at home take on new roles and personalities especially Alice who quickly has to become an adult and take over running the house to help her mother out even though she is still just a child trying to figure out how to deal with middle school. Alice has great friends who stick with her and she maneuvers the landmine that is her new life but nothing will ever be the same regardless of the outcome.

    What Matt wanted most was letters from home "something to carry with him close to his heart" and Matt wanted to leave letters to his family so he filled journals with letters and notes to his daughters so at every critical point in their life they have his wisdom to take with them.

    This is not Matt or Alice's story alone it is the real life of every soldier who leaves their family knowing they may never come back and everyone it impacts. It is truly the most difficult book I have ever read and it is a great story that we should all understand. I had a hard time reviewing it because it breaks my heart writing words that can never give you the complete emotion impact of how real this story is to some family right now. But you should read this book and you should remind yourself that if you are not doing something to support the men and women who are defending the rights we are so fond of, then maybe it is time you did.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 15, 2013

    well written, touchingly heartbreaking,

    well written, touchingly heartbreaking,

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  • Posted June 11, 2012

    Keep the Kleenex handy

    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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  • Posted May 11, 2012


    A truly factual account of what life is really like for children and spouses of deployed loved ones. A must read!

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  • Posted October 20, 2011

    Alice Bliss is a must read.We shouldn't forget there's more to the story.

    Alice Bliss is a superbly written story about a young girl - a teenager - dealing with her father joining the Army reserves and then being activated and sent to Iraq. It's about a tightly knit and happy family - mom Angie, dad Matt, Alice, and her younger sister Ellie. We're given insight into how Matt prepares his family for his leaving. He makes lists of things that need to be done. Of people to call and how to plant the garden. He writes letters for them to read on certain occasions should he not return. It's the story of a family adjusting to a husband's and father's absence and how each has new roles to play in the family. Alice struggles with the normal teenager's angst as well as dealing with her mother and sister and her fear her father won't return. Who handles repairs to the house and the car? Who just helps? It's about a family preparing for the 'what if'. What if he doesn't come back? You can make your lists, make a will, and know who to call, but how do you really prepare? You'll find yourself crying as you read this story. And you should. We mourn the loss of our soldiers, the men and women of the military who serve to protect our freedoms. But what do we do for those left behind as their loved ones head off to war - the moms and dads, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters? What do we do for them to let them know we won't forget? How do we help them when their loved ones are gone? Alice Bliss came highly recommended to me. I pass that recommendation on to you. It's a read well worth your time.

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  • Posted October 19, 2011

    As Ellie (a character in the book) would say, Alice Bliss is Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

    Alice Bliss is a heartwarming, bittersweet coming-of-age story against the backdrop of the Iraq war. Laura Harrington's writing style is effortless as she captures the essence of a young teen grappling with responsibilities and difficult life lessons beyond her years. The book shows that "it takes a village" to help a family overcome a personal tragedy. Keep a box of tissues handy, as you will quickly be drawn to the characters' plight as I was, reading through my tears. Alice Bliss will resonate with you long after turning the last page.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 15, 2011


    It has been a long time since I read a book that not only I could treasure, but my 14 year old daughter could as well. Both of us could relate to the characters who vividly jump from the pages. Without lecturing, the reader feels the happiness and pain these characters feel as they meet the challenges of every day life. Even those truly difficult challenges that military families endure on a daily basis. This is one of those books that stays with you and I couldn't pick up another book to read for a week as I needed time to digest this one. If you are looking for a thought provoking, endearing book, this is for you.

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    Posted August 18, 2011

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