Author: Laura Harrington
Publication Year: 2011
Publisher: Pamela Dorman Books
Location: Upstate New York
Date Completed: 8/6/2011
Rating: 4.5/5Recommend: yes
Matt Bliss and his family live in upstate New York. He is totally devoted to his wife Angie, and daughters Ellie and Alice (the apple of Matt's eye). He is also in the National Guard, and he feels a strong sense of duty to his country. When his unit is called out for active duty and deployed to Iraq, Matt is torn. His wife is upset and angry that he is leaving his family and putting his family in a stressful situation, and himself in a dangerous situation as well.
His oldest daughter Alice, just 15, is heartbroken. She and her dad have always had an extra special relationship because only the two of them enjoyed all outdoor activities. Their time together was quality time, and together they've shared many happy times. When Matt gets his orders, he has a long talk with Alice which even includes a discussion where he keeps all of his important papers should the family ever need them. Once her dad leaves, Alice finds a shirt of his that he had recently worn and takes possession of it. Unwashed, it still smells like her dad. Although the shirt brings her some comfort, and she busies herself trying to keep up all the farming activities she once helped her dad with, she still misses him terribly. She must also still deal with all the other issues that face teens today. Soon tension builds between Alice and her mother, and it seems on more and more occasions lately, they just don't see eye to eye.
Fortunately, Alice has her best friend Henry who she has known since she was a toddler. Henry is there for Alice as a shoulder to cry on, and soon their relationship is evolving to something more than just friends. Uncle Eddie and Gram, are not replacements for dad by any means, but they do what they can to provide emotional support.
The story seems to accurately portray what many families are facing today when they are separated due military deployment. The novel is a first for the author who have previously been a screenwriter. She did an amazing job fleshing out the characters, so I found it easy to feel the emotions each person was going through as I read. It is a sad story but an important story. This story would appeal to adults who enjoy coming of age themes, as well as teens, especially those who have a parent who is away with the military.
I'm happy that I read this touching story, and even though Alice's voice seemed authentic, I found the writing style a bit difficult. The book did not have chapters, and the story was written more like a diary and dialogue of what transpired over the course of a year, consisting of communications from Matt early on, and what was happening on the home front. Despite this, the book it still a solid read.