Review: Alice Bliss
Alice Bliss adored her father. She enjoyed nothing more than having him as a dance partner, someone to confide in and just being around him. Alice Bliss could see, feel, hear and smell the scent of her father just thinking about him. Images stay sharp when people are close by.
Matt Bliss had a vision for his life one that differed from his wife Angie. Angie enjoyed going out to dinner, the finer things in life where as Matt enjoyed the country, living off the land and just the plainer or simpler things in life. Matt Bliss loved his family but was restless and wanted to do more. Enlisting in the reserves he was required to spend one weekend each month training in case his unit was called up. Which to the dismay of his wife and family it was.
Matt was being sent to fight in Iraq and Angie, Emma and of course young Alice’s lives would forever change. Images fade and become just shadows of what they once were as Matt’s memory that was stronger and sharper before he left became duller, cloudier and almost transparent as time went on. Alice Bliss longed for her father but had to care and support her mother. As the story begins she recalls the many times she danced with Matt and his simple touch.
A story told in diary form from start to finish Alice Bliss is a unique and heartfelt book of one young girl and her hopes for the future. As the time draws near for Matt to leave he and Alice sit together and discuss what he expects of her when he’s gone. Alone with her thoughts and listening to her parent’s last moments together Alice feels isolated and alone.
Going to her Gram’s, working on the farm and trying to get her own rhythm in life, Alice will learn many hard lessons. Angie, her mom seems lost and desolate and begins isolating herself by working longer hours bringing her job home. Emma seems to have adjusted better to not having her father home yet when he finally does call right before being shipped to Iraq, Alice lingers on the phone as long as possible, Angie clings to hope and Emma listens to his words. Each lost in their own thoughts and desires and Alice seeming to miss him the most. What will happen if he never returns? Wearing his old shirt to sleep and trying to find some type of connection with her father, Alice widens the gap between herself and her family.
Letters come few and far between but when they do Alice learns about Falluja and the people living there. Matt describes the dust, the kids playing soccer in the streets and the different places and things he has access to in this country so far away. Yet, Alice clings to the scent, memory, shirt and even the foods her father loved in order to keep that connection as she tells him about her life without him. Running track, friends with Henry and how she is helping at home like he asked her to before he went away. Added to that the narrator describes each person’s personal torments, struggles and hopes for their own lives and future. Hardest it appears on Alice, but what about Angie and Ella?
The author brings to light so many issues that many families face each day when loved ones are called to serve their country or like Matt they decide it’s their duty. Just how many families cope will be different but this novel brings to bear one family’s true to life experiences.
You can hear the voices of each character as the narrator relates their feelings, torments, hopes and dreams. Alice is given many more jobs and responsibilities allowing her mother to have more freedom to explore the world and develop her own life without Matt. Uncle Eddie provides the levity and humor as the one constant male present in all of their lives making things somewhat easier for everyone especially Alice. Added to that he teaches her how to drive a car, encourages her to be herself and she remembers her father’s words telling her to look for her inner voice and hear it when things get mixed up or she does not know where she is going.
Ellie and Alice are quite different but they are sisters and start to bond. Henry just wants Alice to like him. But, then the unthinkable happens and her world comes crashing down as Matt is reported MIA. No one knows where he is only that he was captured and the army is not answering all of Angie’s questions. Will they find him or will he be another casualty of this horrific war?
Angie and Alice battle it out at times. Angie hears Matt’s voice in her head telling her to keep the faith, she can handle whatever life throws at her and Alice relives helping her dad on the roof and being afraid of heights.
Alice and Angie start to bond and things begin to really change as everyone tries to sort out what to do about trying to find Matt and get the information needed to learn what really happened to him. Then the truth comes out and they learn Matt’s fate and everyone seems to move in slow motion. Angie needs get answers and they all need to understand. The army is not really straightforward with their responses and end result you need to read for yourself.
As the family gathers to say their final goodbyes Alice does something that will surprise the reader with the help of Henry, his father and one young man named Caleb she honors her father the way she feels he would have liked her too.
Memories and images might seem to fade but they never really do. Close your eyes and you can sometimes hear and see the face of someone you’ve lost. They are always there. Uncle Eddie, Henry, Gram and Mrs. Minty teach Alice the true meaning of loyalty, friendship, understanding and family unity.
One little girl named Ella who loves words and wants to be a neologist when she grows up. Another who just wants to remember her father, follow in his footsteps and keep him close by. This is a story that will touch the hearts and souls of every American, every family that has ever lost someone in the war or sent a father, son or grandson overseas to fight in Iraq or any other war. Matt Bliss had vision. He wanted to live life but he felt he owed something to his country. Alice faces many torments and lashes out when faced with the end result.
Ella begins to bond and grow each day. Henry is steadfast, kind, well mannered and is always there for Alice no matter what. An ending so riveting, heartbreaking and yet filled with hope and inspiration for Alice, but Angie, Ella, Gram, Henry and Uncle Eddie. Author Laura Harrington reminds us that the war is not over and not all wars are fought on the home front or on the battlefield. One community tightly joined together. One special girl named Alice who just wanted one thing in her life: Her Father. As she seeks the truth about herself, finds her own path will she find her way back home.
Characters that are so well defined each with their own personalities and a story that will keep the reader enveloped in the events related in this outstanding journal of one family’s losses and gains. Alice is truly a strong minded, strong willed and intelligent young teen whose faith in herself blossoms as she reads her father’s words and hears his voice on the pages he left behind.
Author: Laura Harrington
Reviewed by Fran Lewis