HARMONY by Carolyn Parkhurst

9780399562600The EDIWTB online book club is back!

This month’s book club choice was Harmony, by Carolyn Parkhurst, which comes out today. Harmony is about the Hammond family, parents Alexandra and Josh and daughters Tilly and Iris, who live in Washington, DC. Tilly is on the autism spectrum with a diagnosis of PDD-NOS (pervasive developmental disorder, not otherwise specified). She has been asked to leave her school because the administrators say she is too disruptive and that they cannot help her anymore. Alexandra, at the end of her rope after homeschooling and seeing little improvement in Tilly’s behavior, turns to the guidance of a parenting consultant named Scott Bean. After months of private sessions with Scott, Alexandra persuades Josh to move the family full-time to a compound in New Hampshire, where Scott is creating a camp for families with children who have developmental disorders.

Harmony is told in alternating vantage points and through flashbacks. Iris, Tilly and Alexandra share the narration, and the setting switches back and forth between the summer of 2012 in New Hampshire to earlier years in D.C.

Camp Harmony, premised on the notion that kids need an environmental detox in order to address their developmental issues, is governed by Scott’s many rules. No cell phones. No processed foods. Adults must turn over the keys to their cars. Families who live at Camp Harmony full time handle the cooking and cleaning. As the book progresses, Scott’s rules become more arbitrary and his calm veneer less smooth. Is he who he says he is? What are his motives? The book reaches a climax when the Hammonds are forced to confront the truth about Scott and come to terms with why they are in New Hampshire and whether it is helping.

Harmony is, at its core, about the helplessness and desperation of parenthood, the innate desire to do whatever it takes to cure your children of their ills. I spent a lot of the book wondering whether I could see myself in Alexandra and Josh’s shoes, selling my house and most of my belongings and putting my trust in another person to do what was right for my family. Parkhurst did a good job of building her case here. She chronicles Alexandra’s increasing despair, her willingness to try anything, as remedies and therapies and curriculae fail Tilly, one after another. She also allows Josh and Alexandra some skepticism and rebelliousness at Camp Harmony to show that they are more than just blind adherents to Scott’s will. She makes Scott reasonable and compelling enough that his brand and ideology seem credible. And then she shifts the narration to Iris so that the the reader can see what’s really going on.

I really liked Harmony. There are some plot holes, and the ending was a little abrupt and unrealistic, but I thought Parkhurst did an excellent job of exploring the challenges of parenting a child on the spectrum. (I also loved all the D.C references.) Harmony was a fast-paced read, yet it is full of details that make you feel like you’re right there at the camp with the Hammonds.

I am a big Parkhurst fan, and this one didn’t disappoint.

OK, EDIWTB book club, what did you think?

 

33 Comments

  • Mary
    August 2, 2016 - 12:48 am | Permalink

    I’ll have some more to say tomorrow, but I was most interested in how the book was structured in terms of POV–the “I” chapters of Iris, the “you” chapters of Alexandra, and the “we” chapters of Tilly. Each POV fit well with each character–some distance from herself and her situation (as if watching it unfold before her) with Alexandra, the up-close play-by-play of the central plotline with Iris, and a look into Tilly’s mind (the “we” suggests that she perceives that everyone thinks/will think the way she does, which I think is one of the characteristics of one on the autism spectrum–the inability to get how other people think (please correct me if I’m wrong)).
    I had minor quibbles with Iris as a character simply because some of her interior monologue seemed a bit too mature for an 11-year-old, mature though she may be. I found the ending to be completely anti-climactic, as the events in the book seemed to be leading up to something bigger. I’m curious as to what others thought of it.
    (Forgive any typos–I’m writing this on my phone!)

    • Gina Beirne
      August 2, 2016 - 9:40 am | Permalink

      Yes. Although tragic, I too thought the ending would be bigger.

  • Larissa
    August 2, 2016 - 3:39 am | Permalink

    I thought the writing itself was beautiful and descriptive. I especially loved the epilogue section on wings.

    I agree the ending was abrupt, lots of build up and I wanted more to happen, along with more background. The Candy twist was well done but then fizzled out, and I wanted to learn more about Scott than we ultimately did. I felt like we didn’t get to see much of the family’s aftermath, and it seemed to wrap up too neatly.

    I really enjoyed Alexandra’s chapters about parenting and her relationship with Josh. The good times and bad seemed so natural, and the longevity and comfort in their relationship. I might have liked to see some Josh narrated chapters.

    Agree that Iris seemed a bit too mature of a narrator in spots, but her actions snd reactions to events seemed spot on. I found some of Tilly’s sexual leanings to be for shock value but overall not explained (part of the slight Turrets maybe?).

    Overall, an interesting look at what it’s like to raise a “difficult” child, how it impacts an entire family, and the pressure of “normalcy”. I enjoyed this book and recommend it, though I would have gladly read a few more chapters at the end with more thorough explanations. A great ending could have been a chapter or two from Scott on his life or perspective following the climax.

    • Gina Beirne
      August 2, 2016 - 9:40 am | Permalink

      I think Alexandra mentions at one point that she is pretty sure Tilly is afflicted with Tourette’s, but it wasn’t diagnosed.

  • Larissa
    August 2, 2016 - 3:46 am | Permalink

    PS – my favorite part of the book was the beginning road trip on the way to Harmony and the set-up there. It really drew me in. I also liked the increasing dread surrounding Scott, as each incident deemed a red flag.

    A big theme of the book was isolation – how isolating parenting can be, especially with a child on the spectrum. Even Iris feels the isolation.

    • Cori
      August 2, 2016 - 8:45 am | Permalink

      I love that you pointed out isolation. I think that is one of the many layers of this book that the Hammond family dealt with before and even after going to Camp Harmony. I hadn’t thought of that until you posted this, but it is so spot on!

  • Mary
    August 2, 2016 - 5:04 am | Permalink

    There were sections where the writing was simply stunning–i loved the epilogue about wings, and the Tilly chapter about photographs and death (I found that extremely moving).

  • August 2, 2016 - 6:12 am | Permalink

    I have this one on my TBR pile. Parkhurst’s The Dogs of Babelbis one book that I read years ago and it still haunts me.

  • Tuvana Bain
    August 2, 2016 - 6:31 am | Permalink

    I found this book to be totally original and readable.
    I loved how the mother came across as totally human, flawed and having guilty thoughts. The pace was well-done and just the perfect amount of Creep factor was sprinkled in throughout (Werewolf game anyone?).

    Some of the writing was transporting – one passage I liked “Iris is complicated and fascinating….in the curious endearing way that all children are….consciousness unspooling from nothing to something.”

    The short chapters were perfect for bedtime reading. The voices of each family member were so believable. I guess I wish I had heard from the dad. Although they didn’t move me particularly while I was reading the book, the chapters about the Hammond Family Museum were poignant and stayed with me. I think everyone could imagine such a “museum” for their family. Highly recommended, an unorthodox “summer read”

    I agree with the others that the ending was abrupt and anti-climactic, but the dread of something Waco-like was intense enough for me!

  • Cori
    August 2, 2016 - 8:40 am | Permalink

    Harmony is a quick read that has so many layers to it. I am still taking time to digest the information in the book. The Author, Carolyn Parkhurst, included so much information on autism spectrum and more importantly the daily struggles and real life examples that represent parents that have children challenged by this. Alexandra, the mom’s chapters had so many reflections that I thought were reminders for me and others that work as teachers to use with our students and parents on how a students’ brain works versus the limits on others thinking.
    On page 114 Alexandra thinks……. It’s like the rest of us have our brains cooped up in a little box, and we’re always bumping into the walls whenever we try to think about anything too big. But somehow Tilly never hits those walls. It’s like she flies right through.” That also represents to me the boundaries Tilly does not have as she says what she thinks, bad words, sexual references and all!

    I believe that Pankhurst did a good job of making the believable argument that the family would give up everything to go to Camp Harmony. Unfortunately Alexandra and Josh didn’t realize what they had set into motion. Alexandra refers to this with the diagnosis of Tilly on page 18 but this gives an ominous clue to what the family will experience over the next few months…… “When we change the way we do things–the way we shop for groceries or take care of our children or protect ourselves from harm–we set other changes in motion, for good or for ill. And it may be years before we figure out what we’ve done.” I know there are so many parents in this world grasping at straws for help and support and in this book, Scott Bean was the perfect flawed character that came and the family trusted his teachings.

    I found the clues in the book that something wasn’t quite right were at times creepy but important to the story. (Telling secrets during Werewolf…..chills.)Scott’s slow unraveling was what I needed as a reader to keep interested and turning pages past my bedtime. I loved reading Iris’s view point, but wish she had shared more of what she experienced with her family before the abrupt ending. I think this book could have been 100 more pages of leading up to a confrontation with Scott and I would have loved it and been able to give the book 5 stars if it had been executed better or more realistically. There were many leads/threads starting, but didn’t combine for the big ending we were all waiting for.

    Overall this was a 3.5 out of 5 stars for me. It got me thinking and I felt the struggle of the characters. The epilogue is a must read for everyone that reads this book and Tilly’s brief insight/perspectives add to the suspiciousness of the situation.

  • Miriam Boots
    August 2, 2016 - 9:17 am | Permalink

    I l;liked Harmony but didn’t love it fully. I agree with so many of the comments so far- the writing about what it is to be a parent of a non typical child was so enlightening. Iris as the younger daughter was so engaging- she really kept the story going for me.
    I thought the hints of something not quite right about Scott kept the tension going. I loved the part about children with wings- that was just so magical and so right. The epilogue is my favorite part.
    I am loving the discussion about the book so much. That always is why I love book clubs- I get so much out of the discussion after the reading of the book.

  • Miriam Boots
    August 2, 2016 - 9:25 am | Permalink

    I also hated to read the parts about Tilly and her shocking outbursts- the sexual ones were so distasteful but they really got across how difficult it would be to deal with this.
    I loved the Josh part and wish we could have heard from him. And Tom was so endearing- the part where he talks with Iris and councils her is so wonderful.
    So many parts of this book will stay with me and I will recommend it to others. However it was not my favorite book of the summer- I am still looking for that!

  • Lindsay
    August 2, 2016 - 9:30 am | Permalink

    I am so glad others liked this book as much as I did. I was happy to have the opportunity to read it ahead of its release – thanks, Gayle for that. Unlike most of the folks who have already posted, though, I didn’t love the epilogue because I felt like it didn’t fit with the tone of the rest of the book. I liked the flashbacks and the characters telling the story from multiple perspectives as well as the increasingly creepy Scott behavior. I agree that Iris was too old sounding for her 11-year-old years, but thought Alexandra was spot-on. I felt myself thinking that I would probably share her feelings about a lot of what was happening in her life. And her desperation. However, I agree with Gayle and others that the ending was too abrupt and a little unrealistic. Overall, though, I thought this book was an engaging and enjoyable summer read that was easy to pick up and put down for short stints. I LOVE the online book club!

  • Gina Beirne
    August 2, 2016 - 9:39 am | Permalink

    I enjoyed Harmony with several caveats. I too found the ending to be anti-climactic, especially as compared to the sense of doom/foreboding as it builds through the course of the novel. The use of multiple narrators (Iris, Alexandra, and Tilly) flowed well. (This does not always happen in novels with multiple perspectives.) My only quibble was that Iris seemed mature for her age, but I think may happen in families such as the Hammonds.
    The werewolf game creeped me out, but thankfully it didn’t go in the direction I thought it was. I wish there was more exposition about the character of Scott Bean and how he became the guru of child behavior.

  • Sarah
    August 2, 2016 - 10:06 am | Permalink

    I enjoyed “Harmony” quite a bit, and thank Gayle for facilitating this discussion. Part of what drew me in was that I could imagine being faced with the challenges of having a child on the spectrum more than a different kind of challenge. In envisioning what it would be like to, say, have a child with a terminal illness, or have a terrible accident befall my child, I almost can’t go there, because it is too painful. So I don’t. I do not have a child on the spectrum, but this kind of challenge seems much more likely to have presented itself to my family. It seems like a more accessible, and even realistic, issue, and thus drew me in.

    I liked each member of the Hammond family, and therefore enjoyed each of their chapters. It wasn’t the kind of book where I preferred one character’s chapter over another. Like others have said, I wish we had heard more from Josh — perhaps if Parkhurst had given him his own chapters — as I found him likable and sympathetic. Parkhurst did a great job of making Tilly very likable, and I loved the relationship between her and Iris. I felt as though Iris, while frequently frustrated with her sister, adored and enjoyed her nonetheless.

    Parkhurst did an excellent job of depicting the exhaustion of mothering, especially at a point in your kids’ lives when the endeavor is supposed to get easier, not harder. I also thought that Parkhurst depicted the struggles of the Hammond marriage in this context. I liked that she never described Alexandra and Josh on the verge of separating, or not being supportive of their family/Tilly. But she did show how acutely their struggles with Tilly impacted their marriage.

    I was a bit impatient with areas of the book I found to be unrealistic: I wanted more of an explanation about how the Hammonds planned to support themselves — while I could see them trying Harmony for a discrete period of time — say a summer — it seemed unrealistic that Josh would quit his job, that Iris’ education would be put on hold/not discussed. The lack of these details bothered me. I also thought that Iris would have shared with her parents the odd episodes she and Tilly experienced with Scott — his losing his temper, in completely inappropriate ways, on a few occasions, his telling Iris to keep secrets, etc. Iris seemed mature and astute enough that she she would have perhaps shared at least some of these concerning episodes with her parents.

    That said, the Hammond family’s feeling of desperation, and their willingness to do hold on to whatever morsel of hope that they could in order to envision a more normal life appeared very realistic to me, especially after speaking with a friend who has an autistic daughter. She shared with me that if someone mentions ANYTHING that *could* lead to a more functional life for her family, they are eager to try virtually anything.

    I thought that Tilly’s chapters were brilliant — I loved the way in which she described her family. I liked the end of the book, where we can envision the Hammmonds living an alternate life in New Hampshire. As a DC resident, I breathed a sigh of relief for the family as they attempted to slow the pace of their frenetic DC life — which was spot on, in my opinion — and live their life in a slower paced (yet functional, non-Harmony) community.

    Thanks for bringing this book to my attention, Gayle!

  • Rachel
    August 2, 2016 - 11:00 am | Permalink

    On the plus side, this was a quick read with lovely language and style. However, throughout my entire time reading this book, I just couldn’t shake the thought, “This would never happen.” While parenting any child has its challenges, I felt the entire premise here unrealistic. It impacted my appreciation for the writing.

  • Laura
    August 2, 2016 - 11:15 am | Permalink

    Parkhurst’s beautiful, descriptive writing made Harmony one of my favorite books of the summer. I was truly touched by the subject matter and the story, and I loved the way it was presented from varying perspectives. I agree with others who mentioned that it would have been nice to have had some chapters from Josh, but I also wonder if Parkhurst deliberately kept the perspective distinctly feminine.

    I enjoyed the story line surrounding Alexandra and Josh’s relationship and marriage and found it very relatable to my own life. I felt very much like I was reading about a real couple which made the entire family overall more believable. Parkhurst does an excellent job of revealing their Alexandra and Josh’s deep bond, very real love and their total comfort in being themselves with one another throughout the book. Several of their interactions stuck out to me: Josh gently teasing Alexandra about her mini obsession with online erotica, their hidden alcohol in their cabin at Camp Harmony, their unspoken “conversation” about joining Scott Bean at Camp Harmony in the emergency room, their slow dance at a relative’s wedding. I actually read the passage about the married couple’s dance at the wedding aloud to my husband and he loved the very real way it depicted what it means to be “happily” married.

    The chapters written from Alexandra’s perspective as a mother were so real to me that they were almost raw. I am currently dealing with issues with own 13 year old daughter while also raising two “normal” teenage girls and a “normal” preteen son. While my daughter’s issues are completely different than Tilly’s, it was easy for me to really feel Alexandra’s desperation and heartache, to understand her need for frivolous distraction and her hunger for answers on how to “fix” Tilly.

    I also loved reading from Iris’s perspective. Several readers have commented that she seemed too mature for an 11 year old girl, but I believe that was the point. I think that Parkhurst wanted us to see that having a sister like Tilly forced Iris to grow up a little faster than other girls her age. It was also through Iris’s perspective that we gain the most clues into Scott’s eventual unraveling, especially when she describes the creepy Werewolf game.

    Tilly’s chapters describing the Hammond family museum really stuck with me. Each of them were quite short in length but said so much. They offered insight into Tilly’s mind and the use of “we” instead “I” for the storytelling perspective was ingenious in demonstrating Tilly’s inability to put herself in another person’s shoes.

    While I disagree that the climax surrounding Scott Bean was too abrupt and not dramatic enough for the buildup, I will say I was disappointed in the lack of details into his background. The few bits we were given left me with more questions about him than answers. I also wish that there was more time spent on the aftermath of what happened and how the families ended up. Did Alexandra ever start her charter school? What was Iris’s transition to public school like? I even wondered about Goughs and what happened with their custody case and between Candy and her father.

    Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and it will make me seek out more of Parkhurst’s writing.

  • gayle
    August 2, 2016 - 11:26 am | Permalink

    I am loving all the comments – thanks everyone for their thoughtful reading of this book!

    Sarah – totally agree about some of the unrealistic things you mentioned (how were they making money, what about Iris’ education?).

    Also – you guys might find this interesting: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/the-powerful-story-of-one-familys-struggle-to-save-an-autistic-child/2016/07/26/d3cb4bda-4e86-11e6-aa14-e0c1087f7583_story.html

    • Cori
      August 2, 2016 - 7:09 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for sharing the article and hosting this book club. I appreciate the opportunity to read the book and see the opinion of others!! I think it was a perfect book for the book club, so many varied opinions of it with parts people liked and didn’t like. Great discussion with many viewpoints!! Thanks again!

  • August 2, 2016 - 11:32 am | Permalink

    I am finding this on-line discussion so interesting! Thank you so much for hosting this book club. I was thrilled to be a part of it. I found this book interesting but didnt love it. I did like the
    writing style. I like hearing the story from different characters. I did get hung up on the disturbing
    sexual shout outs that Tilly does and wondered about where Scott Bean’s character was going with the secrets and that weird Werewolf game. I did like the voice of Alexandria how she is struggling to cope with her child with wings. Her trip while homeschooling Tilly was eye-opening and the other children so cruel calling Tilly a” Loser.”. You can just feel Alexandria’s frustration.
    The epilogue was wonderful- such a compelling image. I wanted to know more about a family with a child on the autism spectrum and I think this book sheds a light on this. I would also give it 3 out of 5 stars. It was interesting to read and I am learning a lot from other people from this discussion.

    • Rachel
      August 2, 2016 - 12:56 pm | Permalink

      I too am enjoying the opportunity to discuss this book together. Maybe I wouldn’t have been as frustrated by the unrealistic nature of this story if it was a short story? The premise for an entire novel seemed too unreal to digest.

  • August 2, 2016 - 1:20 pm | Permalink

    This reminded me of another book I read years ago, but I can’t remember the name of it.

    I love books that tackle hard subjects, and all the interactions of the family members and other characters. Parkhurst sure make the reader picture the places and people in her book. I love her writing style and this book has a great flow to it, but it ends rather abruptly.

    The book was good, but the explicit sexual outbursts of Tilly made me cringe. I know it happens, but still…

  • Susan
    August 2, 2016 - 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Thank you Gayle for giving us this opportunity to read and discuss “Harmony”. I found it to be a quick and enjoyable read but agree with others that the ending seemed abrupt after all of the build-up to Scott’s unravelling. I thought there was going to be something bigger. I enjoyed the different POV’s and found Alexandra’s chapters at times almost too painful to read – I have a child who isn’t on the spectrum but has had mental health issues that have impacted her and the rest of our family. The desire to escape while knowing that you can’t was very realistic. Several years ago I read the book “Far From the Tree” by Andrew Solomon which discussed various types of “different” children – it’s a very long book but basically the premise is that sometimes our children turn out completely different from how we imagined, and we need to meet them and appreciate them where they are, rather than change them into something they’re not. I think the epilogue was a great example of that. One complaint was that while Alexandra and Josh were so desperate for help for their daughter, wouldn’t they have done some more research into Scott before going everything up to join him? In the book there was talk about Facebook postings and in this digital age, it’s so easy to get information on anyone. Overall I enjoyed the book – thank you again Gayle for the opportunity to read and discuss it!

  • Pat Burke
    August 2, 2016 - 3:19 pm | Permalink

    While I found the writing and style very well done, I did not enjoy the book as much as most of the other readers. Although I could appreciate the frustration and desperation Alexandra, I found her to be naive and somewhat infatuated by Scott. On the other hand, Josh seemed to be too passive and removed. While the decision to join Harmony was done for what they deemed the best interest of the family, I did not think they functioned as a family once there. Iris often seemed “sacrificed” which often happens in a family with a special needs child.
    I found Scott to be disconcerting throughlout the book and felt unsatisfied at the end in not really understanding his background and motivation. I felt an aura of evil whenever he was present.
    That being said, I am glad to have read this book and appreciate being a part of the discussion.
    Thank you, Gayle!

  • Sheila
    August 2, 2016 - 10:49 pm | Permalink

    I wish I liked this book as much as many of you did. What I did like? I really enjoyed the parts where the Iris gave us her perspective. I thought she was thoughtful and pretty realistic for a kid that age. I appreciated that she struggled with having a “different” person as a sibling and didn’t always act as the perfect sister to her. She desperately wanted attention, just like any girl her age, especially one with a sister who most likely takes up much of her parents time. I also liked the descriptions of the struggles the mother went through. Wanting to do anything to help your child is familiar to all of us… and the lengths she is willing to go, was plausible to me.

    What I didn’t like? As many of you have said already, I found the climax both unbelievable and anti-climatic. We didn’t learn enough about Scott to see this even remotely as a possibility and the author teased us with so many other potentials things to wait for. While I hoped and prayed he would not turn out to be a sexual predator, I did not find this ending any more satisfying.

    The other issue I had with this book is Iris’ father. We never really understand how he came on board for this crazy idea and how having a child like Tilly and uprooting his life like this affected him. A couple of times I thought he would “see the light” and realize this utopian lifestyle was not working for them… but then there would be a quick turn around and he was back on board.

    So overall. I give this book a hearty “meh.”

  • Miriam Boots
    August 3, 2016 - 10:41 am | Permalink

    I love the last comment- I think we all give this book a hearty “meh”. That nails it.
    I do think the author kept the tension building and gave some hints that there was something off about Scott. I kept wanting to read to find out what would happen. I think that is skillful plotting. All in all a good book club book with lots of comments and not everyone loving it (always makes for a good discussion when everyone is all over the place with opinions).
    Thanks again, Gayle for facilitating this book club. I keep thinking about this book.

  • Sam
    August 3, 2016 - 10:46 am | Permalink

    I loved the almost poetic writing of the book. It was interesting to give more thought to a family of a non typical child and how it affected the family. I, too, was disappointed in the climax but overall I enjoyed the book as a quick summer read.

    Thank you for the opportunity to participate in the book club!

  • gayle
    August 3, 2016 - 12:29 pm | Permalink

    I give this more than a “meh”. I really liked it. Not perfect, but it kept me very interested and I think it raised a lot of good issues.

  • August 3, 2016 - 3:46 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed reading this a lot more than I thought I would once it became obvious that there was a bit of a bait and switch with regards to what the story was about.

    From the jacket copy, I thought it would be much more about the dynamics and interactions at the camp, and it’s really more about how this family interacts with each other while raising/growing up with a child who responds to the world in such a radically different way than anyone else in the family. I love the way Parkhurst uses their feelings and different points of view to express the difficulties and the love within this family. She was so effective at painting their lives, that I could really relate to reaching rock bottom and considering crazy ideas—and it helped me to overlook a bunch of the flaws in the story (a little more research into Scott and how they came to going to camp, some aspects of the child narration, the abrupt ending).

    I did miss hearing Josh’s perspective. Parkhurst went with all female narration, emphasizing the complicated mother/daughter and sibling relationships, but it was such a strong family story that leaving him out seemed odd.

  • Elisabeth
    August 4, 2016 - 12:24 pm | Permalink

    Thanks Gayle for restarting the book club, I feel very fortunate to be able to participate. I enjoyed Harmony as I have all of Carolyn Parkhurst’s books. I thought the premise of Camp Harmony was a great idea for families who are looking for an alternative way of dealing with a special needs child. What the problem was, is the tyrannical way Scott ran the camp. If Scott had run the camp differently, it could have been a great place and good solution. Scott gave me a creepy sinister feeling right from the very start. I was surprised when he pulled out the gun, but realized he felt that his life and reputation was in a shambles- committing suicide seemed logical for a man who felt he had no options.

    The one issue I did have was with Alexandra. I was appalled by the fact that she sat back and watched the students bully Tilly to the point of tears. How could she not have stepped in and helped? I agree that I would have liked to have known what Josh’s point of view was and why he was such a passive character. I don’t think I could ever tolerate other adults reprimanding/yelling at my children. It’s possible that it came as a relief to Alexandra and Josh to relinquish that responsibility, but I don’t think I could ever have done that.

    I look forward to reading more of Carolyn Parkhurst, I enjoy authors who have a similar theme but very different story in their books.

  • Karen Jeanne
    August 7, 2016 - 10:56 am | Permalink

    Thank you for starting the book club, & for prompting us to read this book. I enjoyed it, mostly. I understand how it feels to have a challenging child, & although the sexual comments shocked me at first, I understand that the reason behind them is to put the reader in the mindset of a parent who is frequently made uncomfortable by their child’s unpredictable words or actions. If the comments weren’t off-putting, how would anyone who doesn’t have a child on the spectrum understand the feeling of dread that can come from never knowing what to expect?

    I thought the mother’s perspective was very well written, & it was nice to read about a parent who is unsure about herself but still trying her best. I think most of the parents I’ve seen in books are depicted as being absolute messes that don’t care about anyone but themselves or as totally in charge no matter what. This seemed much more realistic & a lot of her thoughts hit very close to home for me, especially where she realized that her daughter, who was so *not normal*, was so much like her, but “magnified”.

    I agree with everyone who has been saying the ending was abrupt & anti-climactic. I was anticipating something similar, but really expected much more explanation or background once the end came. Why was he using a different name, & why did he tell a story about a brother who had the name Jesse? There should have been a diary found, or a madman’s manifesto or something to provide the back story. Another thing I found odd was that there were several things described I detail that ended up having no bearing on the story, like the whole part about the AC in the office… what did that have to do with anything? Or the chicken death/resurrection… what was that about? I feel like we lost a few chapters somewhere that would have provided more detail, or there’s a sequel coming.

  • Polly
    August 7, 2016 - 11:41 pm | Permalink

    I loved this book. Carolyn is one of my favorite author’s so I was eager to read this one and, for me, it didn’t disappoint. There are too many interesting and insightful comments above for me to address (and I need to rereas when not on my phone)!but one aspect of the book I didn’t see discussed as much was the humor that flowed mainly through Alexandra’s perspective in the book. While I totally agree that parts of the book were hard to read/deliberately uncomfortable, parts of it also made me laugh or smile in recognition (telling her husband to be home 20 minutes earlier than she actually needed). Finding the wry humor in painful situations resonated for me. I think my attachment to the characters whom I found so sympathetic and real in their flaws very much distracted me from some of the gaps/flaws others have pointed out.

    I also loved the chapters from Tilly’s perspective and the epilogue.

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