Book Review Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst {living outside the stacks}

I received this book free as part of a prize pack from Penguin Random House Library.

Title: Harmony

Author: Carolyn Parkhurst

Genre: Fiction

Publisher: Viking

Release Date: 2016

Format: Advanced Uncorrected Proofs

Pages: 275

ABOUT THE BOOK {from the flap}

Alexandra and her husband have tried everything to help their off~the~charts genius but impossible daughter, who has been deemed “undiagnosable.” Once Tilly is expelled from the last school in their DC suburb, her parents are out of ideas. And so the family turns to Camp Harmony, and the wisdom of child behavior expert Scott Bean, for a solution. But what they discover about themselves and their new mentor in the woods of New Hampshire will push them to the very limit.

Told from the alternating perspectives of both Alexandra and her wise~beyond~her~years younger daughter, Iris, Harmony is an unputdownable story about the strength of love, the bonds of family, and how you survive the unthinkable.


Carolyn Parkhurst is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels The Dogs of Babel, Lost and Found, and The Nobodies Album. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and two children. You can like her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter.

Book Review Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst 2 {living outside the stacks}


I think this book should be required reading for everyone who has ever judged another parent because of the actions of their child. Yes, some children suffer from lack of discipline, but some children have needs we couldn’t begin to understand {and their parents could use the sympathy/empathy}. For example, there’s a scene in the book where Alexandra and her daughters are in a store and Tilly starts to have a meltdown and she’s torn between comforting Iris and bringing Tilly back down from the ledge and she chooses Tilly, knowing that Iris will understand that her sister was most in need at that moment, even though she was equally upset… My heart felt like it ripped. I wanted to reach into the book, grab Iris, and let her know that it was going to be OK. The funny thing is, regardless of a child’s {dis}abilities, if you have more than one child, you’ve been in that spot before and you wonder if your child really will be OK.

The writing in this novel is tight and the emotional push and pull is neatly woven throughout. There were points where I found myself holding my breath because I thought I knew what was coming and then there was a quick pivot and something unexpected happened. Then there were other points where I sighed deeply because I wondered how could the parents not see what was happening? And I know the answer, it’s because when our children are hurting and they need help, we are willing to do just about anything to help them, even if that means ignoring or dismissing other warning signs.

I wonder if Parkhurst has personal experience dealing with a child who is on the spectrum because her description of Iris’s internal struggle with wanting her sister to be “normal” but wanting to accept her for who she is was spot on. As was the attention Parkhurst paid to the parents’ desire to make sure that Iris didn’t feel left out or invisible because of Tilly’s need for attention.

The plot is a tough one to handle because, well, it’s dealing with special needs children and that can be a hard thing to write about. I think Parkhurst used an appropriate amount of sensitivity while “keeping it real” with the conflicting emotions within the marriage and between each of the parents and their children.

Overall, I recommend this book if you like family dramas. I will warn you that there are some incredibly disturbing events in this book, but they are few and far between {they are not gratuitous and contribute to the flow of the story}. This would also make a great book for book groups because there are so many topics to unpack.

This book contains harsh language, graphic sexual content, and violence.


“But more than that, I’m crying because I’m realizing that this is what I’ve wanted, maybe my whole entire life; for someone to take me and Tilly, look us both up and down, and tell me that I’m the one who’s good and smart and special and nice. And feeling that way just might be the worst thing I’ve ever done to my sister, whether she knows about it or not.” Page 162


Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? Let’s discuss…

Daenel T {Living Outside the Stacks}





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