The first book I read by Carolyn Parkhurst was weird, and I liked
it because of its weirdness. But the other books I've read by this author have been weird but also unbelievable. This one is no exception. This family's journey to be part of the founding group of what is billed as a camp but quickly seems more like a cult often doesn't make sense. What bothered me more was the portrayal of the thoughts of the autistic daughter. I've taught autistic kids, and the writing that was supposed to be the autistic daughter didn't ring true to me, to the point where I was tempted to skip over it to the next part of the book.
Release date: August 2, 2016
How far will a mother go to save her family? The Hammond family is living in DC, where everything seems to be going just fine, until it becomes clear that the oldest daughter, Tilly, is developing abnormally--a mix of off-the-charts genius and social incompetence. Once Tilly--whose condition is deemed undiagnosable--is kicked out of the last school in the area, her mother Alexandra is out of ideas. The family turns to Camp Harmony and the wisdom of child behavior guru Scott Bean for a solution. But what they discover in the woods of New Hampshire will push them to the very limit. Told from the alternating perspectives of both Alexandra and her younger daughter Iris (the book's Nick Carraway), this is a unputdownable story about the strength of love, the bonds of family, and how you survive the unthinkable.
This the story of a family's journey living with a daughter who is not typical, "on the spectrum."
The author does a good job at conveying and demonstrating that each and every individual labelled as "on the spectrum" is different. What works for one individual may not work for another.
I love how the family grew, and how this was similar in ways to what the parents of the individuals I work for have told me of their own journeys.
I received a copy of this in exchange for an honest review.
This book is beautiful. Its imagery is rich and captivating. Lexy, the main character's wife, makes masks for a living and this whole book is one long masquerade.
It also contains one of the most poignant and realistic treatments of mental illness I've ever read. I identified with Lexy very strongly and have been in her position many times. As she spirals further and further in to her inner nightmare she acts out impulsively, in rage, in sorrow, never truly comprehending her own actions. She is mercurial, childish, and desperately trying to carve something resembling a normal life from the featureless clay that is her own existence.
Lexy makes masks, fantasy creatures, celestial bodies, larger than life animals not, perhaps, in order to act in service to some trite literary device (don't you see, we all wear masks or some such nonsense) but in order to gain control over the chaos. If she can look at the world as an endless carnival, then it loses its teeth and she can feel as if she's imposed some order, taken away the fear, shed light in the dark corners. When we're children and we're afraid of the bad guy in a movie, our parents often tell us, don't worry it's just a mask.
Paul, the husband Lexy leaves behind after falling to her death, is a sympathetic character. His struggle with grief is authentic, including his increasingly bizarre fixation on getting the family dog, Lorelei, to talk. What I like the most about his narration is that it shows what it is like for the relatively sane partner to live with someone who is seriously mentally ill, and going without treatment for that mental illness. His exhaustion and his anger are communicated well, and yet I always understood why he and Lexy were together.
The other aspect that I enjoyed is that Lexy is, in the beginning, presented as the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl archetype, but the rest of the book is all about the dark side of that archetype. Instead of their lives playing out like a movie where the quirky girl helps the stick in the mud to lighten up, it turns out that such spontaneity and changeableness often comes with a price, that it grows from something dark that invades every part of a person's being and life. Rather than Lexy just existing to whirl through Paul's life, fixing his problems, Lexy is her own person with her own problems.
The mystery such as it is, isn't really the point of the story in that you could never call this a detective novel or anything of the sort. Still, when Paul figures out the "incongruities" of Lexy's death, it makes sense and it's satisfying to know how it all plays out in the end. For example I loved when [Paul called the psychic hotline and finally got Lady Arabelle, the woman who last spoke to Lexy and the woman he's been trying to reach night after night. (hide spoiler)]
The only part I feel ambivalent about is [when Paul goes to meet up with the Cerberus society (hide spoiler)] I thought it was almost too weird for the story as told up to that point. However, looking back on some of the opening images in this novel, I think ultimately it does fit in contrast to some of the nigh divine things from when he and Lexy first meet and go on their week long date. [I'm still happy the author didn't kill the dog