I read a lot of books. I am about to catch up to my record of 160 books read in one year in about a week. There are many books that I like and will praise, but know that I probably won't re-read them, but they were fun at the time. There are a few books in my many read books that jump to the list of mind-blowing books. Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst is one of those mind-blowing books. This is one that needs to be read.
The story is told from three perspectives- Alexandra- the mother from the past, Iris- the youngest daughter from the present, and Tilly- the eldest daughter who has a non diagnosable autism from somewhere in the future.
It tells the story of a family that has come to the end of its rope with their daughter Tilly, so much so that they are willing to leave their life behind and join a camp led by Scott Bean. In the camp, they are connected with two other families who have children with other type of needs.
Tilly has a special type of autism where she is extremely intelligent, but she also doesn't know the difference between appropriate and inappropriate. She is also spontaneous and will often break out into violent bursts. She has been kicked out of every single school she has attended. This camp is her only option at this point in her life.
As the families remain in the camp, Scott begins to become unhinged a bit and things are not what they seem.
I have been telling people this is a dark book. I find that important because I have been finding that many books that have autistic characters or deal with autism as a whole start to fall down the path of- we have problems, but we are happy and everything will be fine in the end. I find these books are somewhat unreal and don't really address what it is like to live with an autistic child, at least according to parents I have spoken with.
This isn't that type of book. Tilly isn't going to get "better" and her parents really struggle with what to do with her. At one point she screams- "Your lives would be better if I wasn't around" and Parkhurst gives us the insight that as much as the parents want to say that isn't true, there is a piece of them that believe what she says. This is real.
As for the camp portions of the story, we know something will go wrong from the beginning, so it isn't a spoiler. All I will say is- remember this is a dark story. The ending threw me for a loop and I did not see it coming at all. I actually found the camp portions more tedious than hearing about the past with Tilly, but by the end I saw the purpose of the camp. The parents even know the camp doesn't seem right, but there is literally no where else they can go and just need someplace to go. This is the story of desperate parents.
Take your time with this book. I was not familiar with Parkhurst's writing, but after this book, I want to read everything she has written. She is a phenomenal writer who gets into the head of a couple who want to do the right thing as well as a daughter who wants to love her sister, but finds her difficult to live with.
I gave this one a solid 5 stars. Read this one!
Here is your Amazon link- Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst