Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst
Penguin Publishing Group: 8/2/16
eBook review copy; 288 pages
Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst is a very highly recommended, original modern family drama.
Alexandra and Josh Hammond are raising two girls, Tilly, 13, and Iris,
11. They have struggled with the challenges of raising Tilly, who is on
the autism spectrum and has officially been diagnosed as PDD-NOS, or
"pervasive developmental disorder not otherwise specified." Tilly can be
remarkable, but she can also be overwhelming. Alexandra has been
talking and getting advice from Scoot Bean, a child development
counselor/parenting guru. The Hammond's have decided to sell their home,
get rid of most of their possessions, and accept the invitation to join
Scott Bean in the establishment of a family camp. Camp Harmony is a
wilderness camp located in New Hampshire. More importantly, it is a
place that focuses on families with special needs children.
Once they arrive, it seems that Scott, while charismatic, is also much
more controlling than they thought he would be. Camp Harmony begins to
resemble a cult.
The story is told through three different narrators: Iris, Alexandra,
and Tilly. Iris tells the story of what happens at Camp Harmony. Her
observations are clear, precise, and very perceptive. She shares details
that raise some red flags and help give the reader a reliable and
complete picture of Camp Harmony. Alexandra shares the backstory, how
she and Josh met, raising the girls, the different struggles they have
had with Tilly, and how Scott Bean helped. Tilly has entries written
from an unspecified place and time. They are astute, stunning monologues
that show the way Tilly thinks and give glimpses into the future of the
I thought this was a brilliant literary novel. The writing is wonderful.
The alternating narratives help create a feeling of anticipation and
suspense as information slowly builds up and increases the tension. You
will be finding yourself reading as fast as you can to find out what
happens next. Scott Bean is a character, but he can also stand for an
idea, a concept - yet another new way to approach autism.
The narratives also help develop the three lead female characters. They
are complex individuals with their own frailty and failings, but also
strengths and talents. Parkhurst explores what makes up the fabric of a
family bond and the
experiences that help cement the relationships. She honestly examines
parenting a child on the spectrum, and how that can feel through the
eyes of one individual woman.
I totally agree with the reviews that mentioned that Harmony would be a perfect choice for bookclubs. There is more here than the story of a family looking for some help, some answer.
My advanced reading copy was courtesy
of the publisher for review