Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst


Summary from Goodreads:

How far will a mother go to save her family? The Hammond family is living in DC, where everything seems to be going just fine, until it becomes clear that the oldest daughter, Tilly, is developing abnormally–a mix of off-the-charts genius and social incompetence. Once Tilly–whose condition is deemed undiagnosable–is kicked out of the last school in the area, her mother Alexandra is out of ideas. The family turns to Camp Harmony and the wisdom of child behavior guru Scott Bean for a solution. But what they discover in the woods of New Hampshire will push them to the very limit. Told from the alternating perspectives of both Alexandra and her younger daughter Iris (the book’s Nick Carraway), this is a unputdownable story about the strength of love, the bonds of family, and how you survive the unthinkable.

I read Parkhurst’s Dogs of Babel a few years back and it made me a fan for life. I’ll read anything she writes. While not as mind-blowing as DOBHarmony definitely made an impression.

It’s hard to describe what it is exactly I like about Parkhurst’s writing – there’s this strange… authenticity to her characters. Especially impressive is her ability to write in the voice of an 11-year-old.  I’m particularly in touch with my inner child but I find that most writers trying to capture pre-teen or teenage voices come across as unbearable and unbearably self conscious. Parkhurst manages to avoid that completely – the interactions between the sisters are so familiar that I felt like I had been transported back in time to a family trip with my five siblings. In fact, Iris was my favourite narrator – childish but still perceptive.

Unfamiliar to my own experience is Parkhurst’s exploration of developmental issues in children – a subject she tackles with both sensitivity and honesty.

My biggest criticism would be the tragedy and menace we are primed for in the first chapter (which is slowly unveiled throughout the novel) is a bit obvious and, perhaps, unnecessary. I don’t want to say too much more in fear of spoiling the ending!

Fans of familial dramas, look no further. Parkhurst has got what you need. Recommended.

(On a side note: how beautiful is that cover?!)

3 thoughts on “Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst

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