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Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst
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Harmony by Carolyn Parkhurst
Paperback $22.00
Jun 13, 2017 | ISBN 9780399562617

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    Jun 13, 2017 | ISBN 9780399562617

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  • Aug 02, 2016 | ISBN 9780399562624

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  • Aug 02, 2016 | ISBN 9780735288614

    544 Minutes

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“This is a fascinating novel, at once challenging and compassionate, thrilling and thoughtful. It asks tough questions about what happens to people who don’t fit predetermined patterns, and what it means to be normal.” —The Guardian

“Gorgeously written and patently original, Harmony takes us intimately into the lives of families with children who are not neurotypical — from the complex perspectives of the parent, the sibling, and the child herself.  Anyone who has ever encountered a child on the spectrum will come away with a new understanding and empathy after reading this novel.” —Jodi Picoult, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Leaving Time

“Parkhurst is a sincere and crafty writer. . . Harmony [is] a moving and compassionate literary dive straight into the heart of a frantic parent. . . shatteringly immediate. . . touchingly real.” The New York Times Book Review

“Splendid. . .  [Parkhurst] truly excels at bringing Alexandra and Iris to life, her terrific prose matched by compassion and a sense of humor. . . Parkhurst has always been an engaging and thoughtful writer, but the beautifully written Harmony is her best work, a haunting, creepy but ultimately moving story of love and family.” –The Miami Herald

“Every child has the potential to break a parent’s heart.  In this gripping, timely novel, Carolyn Parkhurst follows the Hammond family as they give up everything to build a community that will allow both their daughters to thrive, an experiment that tests their resilienceand ultimately reveals the healing power of love.” —Kim Edwards, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Memory Keeper’s Daughter  
“Carolyn Parkhurst has composed the perfect blend of humor, suspense, and compassion in this fascinating tale of a family taking a crazy risk to save themselves. I read it in one giant gulpHarmony is absolutely riveting.” —Jami Attenberg, New York Times bestselling author of The Middlesteins and Saint Mazie

“Quite simply stunning. In this page-turning novel about one small family, Carolyn Parkhurst explores the complicated business of “normal,” and the distances parents will go in search of what their children need. Compelling, thought-provoking, surprising, heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting, Harmony is a novel that will change the way you think.” —Meg Waite Clayton, New York Times bestselling author of The Wednesday Sisters
“In Harmony, the fiercely talented Carolyn Parkhurst fuses compelling social drama with riveting storytelling. Without an ounce of sugarcoating, the author leads readers into Camp Harmony—transfixing them until the startling conclusion.” —Randy Susan Meyers, author of Accidents of Marriage
“Wildly ambitious and eerily unsettling, this is a novel that burns with love, wisdom and rare grace. I loved this book.” —Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You

“This honest, heartbreakingly funny novel is the story of a family with a difficult child. Though we know from the start that something dark and dramatic will happen, how Parkhurst creates a novel of deep compassion is remarkable.  I read Harmony in one sitting.”  –Susan Richards Shreve, author of You are the Love of my Life
“Fast-paced and heartfelt, Harmony asks the questions: What’s it worth to be normal? And, is being not-so-normal such a bad thing? I will follow Carolyn Parkhurst anywhere.” —Helen Ellis, New York Times bestselling author of American Housewife

“[A] heartfelt novel.” —O Magazine, “10 Titles to Pick Up Now”

“Propulsive. . . Everything from the parents’ desperation to the camp’s creepy vibe feels vividly real, and this provocative page-turner also invites important, broader conversations about autism.”—People

“In Parkhurst’s deft treatment, Harmony becomes a story of our time, a compassionate treatise on how society judges parents, how parents judge themselves and how desperation sometimes causes otherwise rational people to choose irrational lives. . . Parkhurst cements herself as a writer capable of astonishing humanity and exquisite prose, someone whose wisdom parents and their judges should heed.”  –Washington Post

“A fleet page-turner. . . a compelling, seductive narrative. . . unusual and refreshing in its approach to its central mystery.”—

“Darkly funny and suspenseful, with a palpable sense of dread that propels readers toward anticipatory horror. Parkhurst draws the Hammond family with depth and sensitivity. . . . [a] sensational exploration of what it means to be a family with a special needs child.USA Today

“Nothing short of fantastic.” –Refinery29

“An unusual chiller. . . a drama [about] a family of four that’s been pushed to the brink. . . ” —Good Housekeeping

“A masterpiece of slow-burning tension. . . Readers will be torn between a desire to pause to admire a golden paragraph and the compulsion to hasten on to find out what happens next. . .  [A] sumptuously written, eminently compelling novel about a family and its desperation.”The AV Club

“From the first sentences of this unusual and compelling novel. . . pages turn with the momentum of an emotional thriller. . . The characters go straight to your heart. Brilliant, funny, and beautiful monologues that show how deeply Parkhurst understands what she’s writing about. Suspenseful, moving, and full of inspiration and insight about parenting a child with autism.” –Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Parkhurst’s latest explores family bonds, modern-day parenting, and the the foundations of cult-like groups, all with nuance and a liberal dose of dark humor. . . Parkhurst’s memorable tale features a complex cast of characters and a series of conundrums with no easy answers. Book-discussion groups will be particularly interested in the tale’s numerous deftly explored gray areas.” –Publishers Weekly

“Alternately heartbreaking and hopeful, the novel beautifully sums up the love between parents and children.” —PureWow

Author Q&A

A Conversation with Carolyn Parkhurst

1. Why did you decide to write about a child on the autism spectrum? Is there anyone in your life like Tilly?

My fifteen-year-old son has Asperger’s, and raising him has been so different than I’d imagined it would be when I first became a parent. He’s an incredible kid; he’s smart and creative and funny, and he has the most interesting mind of anyone I’ve ever met. But it’s also been really challenging. Raising a child with special needs can be isolating and overwhelming; there’s a whole new world of doctors and therapies, schools and medications and “services” to navigate, in addition to dealing with behavioral issues and added levels of daily stress and household chaos.
At first, I wasn’t sure I wanted to write about a kid with autism; it was already so much a part of my life that I wasn’t certain I wanted to make it a central part of my work, too. But I think there’s some truth to the idea that our ideas choose us, rather than vice versa, and it turned out that this was the story I was best qualified to tell. My hope was that, in addition to telling a good story, the book might resonate with other parents who have had similar experiences. Knowing that you’re not alone goes a long way toward alleviating isolation and hopelessness.
2. Has the idea of living in a group situation like Camp Harmony ever been appealing to you? Have you ever known anyone who’s lived that way?
I’ve never seriously considered joining any kind of community like Camp Harmony, but I can see the appeal of living with a group of like-minded people, working together to share daily tasks and responsibilities. The question of whether Camp Harmony is a cult is an open one; I wanted to leave it as a sort of gray area, and there are certainly ways in which the camp serves as a positive force in the families’ lives. But when I started writing the book, I was thinking a lot about the question of cults, and what might make an otherwise intelligent, thoughtful person give up everything in his life to follow a charismatic leader. And the answer I arrived at is that if you’re feeling lonely and isolated and desperate, if you can’t see any way out of your problems, then you might be willing to put your faith in anybody who treated you kindly and offered you a solution for a better life.
3. Why did you write Alexandra’s voice in the second person?
Alexandra’s experiences are very close to mine—she’s the most autobiographical character I’ve ever written—and her day-to-day life is really at the heart of what I wanted to get across in this book. I wanted her narrative to reflect the specific details of raising a child on the autism spectrum, the very particular joys and challenges that arise in every situation. When I started writing, I didn’t give much thought to writing in the second person; that was just the way Alexandra’s voice came to me. But one of the things I like about it is that it feels very intimate; the reader is placed right inside her perspective, living her story right along with her. I also like the way that it mirrors the interior voice we all have inside our heads, the one that’s our harshest critic, the one that holds onto all of our most unflattering secrets and our most unlikely hopes.
4. Tilly’s voice as narrator is very different from how she comes across in everyday life. Why did you choose to write it that way?
Tilly has an incredibly vast imagination; it’s one of her biggest strengths, and it’s something that never lets her down. It’s the one thing in her life that’s always in her control, and it’s the one place where it works to her advantage to have a brain that’s “differently wired” from everybody else’s. She also has a strong sense of fairness, and she believes that her own life, her own family’s story, is as worthy of memorializing as the life of any president or king. So she fantasizes about a world where people line up to see a museum exhibit of “Hammond Family Artifacts” or take part in historical recreation festivals that replay the stories of her life. No matter what challenges Tilly faces in the other parts of her life, when she’s inside her head, she is her own hero, and anything is possible.
5. Janelle says, “A hopeful mom can talk herself into anything.” (p. 99) As a mother yourself, do you find this to be true? If so, why?
Absolutely. We all have so many hopes for our kids, and we can all see what kind of amazing potential they have, even if it’s not always apparent to everyone else. (The piano-lesson and ballet-lesson industries earn most of their revenue from boundless maternal hope.) And when our kids have any kind of problem, we want to believe that we can solve it. There are many evenings when I’ve gotten sidetracked reading anecdotal stories from parents who swear that a certain dietary supplement has helped their autistic child, or a particular kind of therapy, or a holistic practice. Ultimately, we tend to rely on a good dose of common sense to keep us from going too far afield. But a willingness to consider anything that might help our children is a key component of motherhood.
6. Technology (or the lack thereof) plays a very important role in this book. Do you think that our society’s current relationship to technology helps or hinders parents?
Both, probably—I think most of us agree that the unprecedented access we have to technology is both a blessing and a curse. Online forums can be a real lifeline for parents of special-needs kids, and the support of long-distance friends and family through email and social media is a wonderful gift of modern life. But I don’t know any parent who doesn’t worry about the effect that screen time has on their children, and I also don’t know any parent who hasn’t been caught once or twice looking at her phone when she should have been paying attention to her kids. There’s no going back; laptops and smartphones and the Internet are a part of our lives. But their existence raises a whole new set of problems and concerns for parents to navigate.
7. What are you working on now?
Something much lighter! I spent five years writing Harmony, and it was not an easy five years. I worried about whether it was okay to be writing (and eventually publishing) something so personal, about whether I was portraying the experience of parenting a child with special needs fairly and honestly, and about what my kids would think when they read it eventually. Now, I’m taking a little bit of a break and writing something that’s funny and topical and not at all personal.

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