Book of the Day: “Harmony” by Carolyn Parkhurst
All Alexandra Hammond wants is to understand and help her daughter. Tilly, who is on the autism spectrum, has needs that exceed what Alexandra and her husband, Josh, know how to provide. They’ve tried patience, talking to their teenage daughter and coaching her through outbursts. They’ve tried therapy. They’ve tried special schools. But no combination of education and treatment works.
So the Hammonds are taking a drastic measure: They’re leaving Washington, D.C., and joining parenting expert Scott Bean and two other families at Camp Harmony, a refuge for families of special-needs children, in New Hampshire. Even if it means giving up independence and privacy, the family is determined to create the best life for Tilly and her younger sister, Iris.
In Harmony, bestselling author Carolyn Parkhurst (The Dogs of Babel, Lost and Found) again pulls readers into the hearts of her characters. Although this is decidedly a novel, Parkhurst draws on her own experience as the mother of a child with Asperger’s, making Alexandra’s frustration with her brilliant but difficult-to-reach eldest daughter and resulting desperation ring true. When Scott comes along, she questions how a man with scant credentials and no parenting experience can declare himself a child behavior expert. But if there’s hope, Alexandra can’t help but gravitate to it.
By toggling perspectives of the Hammond family women—Alexandra, Tilly and Iris, who is the primary storyteller—Parkhurst deftly illuminates the narrative. As the family settles in, questions about Scott’s sketchy qualifications become impossible to ignore. The result is a riveting read.
This article was originally published in the August 2016 issue of BookPage.