By Carolyn Parkhurst
Published by Sceptre
Available in hardback & ebook
Paperback is forthcoming
My original review of Harmony was that it was a beautifully written book, and I was going to simply leave it as that but the review seemed too short for such a tense and gripping novel.
Similar to A Boy Made of Bricks, Harmony, Carolyn Parkhurst's latest novel, looks at the way parents struggle with a child who is on the autistic spectrum. A Boy Made of Bricks looks at the way both parents finding ways of helping their son while Harmony looks at how the parents look outside the family unit for assistance, and the way this can rip apart the family. A Boy Made of Bricks seems a family come together at the end while Harmony leaves you pondering for days after if the family within the pages of this novel would be fine after the last sentence.
The Hammond family are desperate. So desperate for answers to help their eldest daughter, Tilly, who is on the autistic spectrum, that they pack up their life and travel to Camp Harmony. Not for a holiday but to find answers to cope with Tilly's increasingly erratic behaviour as their coping strategies are no longer working. Alex, Tilly's mother, comes across Scott Bean, a parenting guru full of charm and charisma. He has a solution - a camp for families with 'difficult' children - co-parenting, sharing of problems.
Told through the eyes of Alex, the mother and Tilly, Iris's younger sister, the reader witnesses the family being pushed more and more to its limits even though they are supposedly in the safety of the camp - their relationships with each other becomes fragmented full of secret and lies. This 'program' becomes more of a cult, isolating the families from reality - the one thing the parents actually want is to be help their child to fit into the real world.
The expectations of a utopia are short lived as happiness of the camp starts to fill up with rules and regulations. Scott is more like a cult leader with his erratic behaviour. Relationships become strained not only between the parents but also between the children. Iris finds herself increasingly ignored and marginalised, helping to build resentment towards her sister and the camp.
Harmony carries the suspense and the feeling of dread throughout the novel as well as keeping up with the dark humour. The reader knows that there is something not quite right about this camp, and why can't the parents see that this set up isn't going to solve their problems.
You can buy Harmony from your favourite bookshop.
I was sent a copy via Bookbridgr.