Alice Bliss
Goodreads ratings
3.81 / 5

"Alice Bliss" Summary

By Laura Harrington

fiction | 320 pages | Published in NaN

When Alice Bliss learns that her father, Matt, is being deployed to Iraq, she's heartbroken. Alice idolizes her father, loves working beside him in their garden, accompanying him on the occasional roofing job, playing baseball. When he ships out, Alice is faced with finding a way to fill the emptiness he has left behind. Matt will miss seeing his daughter blossom from a tomboy into a full-blown teenager. Alice will learn to drive, join the track team, go to her first dance, and fall in love, all while trying to be strong for her mother, Angie, and take care of her precocious little sister, Ellie. But the smell of Matt is starting to fade from his blue shirt that Alice wears everyday, and the phone calls are never long enough. Alice Bliss is a profoundly moving coming-of-age novel about love and its many variations--the support of a small town looking after its own; love between an absent father and his daughter; the complicated love between an adolescent girl and her mother; and an exploration of new love with the boy-next-door. These characters' struggles amidst uncertain times echo our own, lending the novel an immediacy and poignancy that is both relevant and real. At once universal and very personal, Alice Bliss is a transforming story about those who are left at home during wartime, and a teenage girl bravely facing the future.


Estimated read time: 6 min read

One Sentence Summary

After her father is deployed to Iraq, a teenage girl navigates family struggles and first love in a coming-of-age story set during wartime.


"Alice Bliss" by Laura Harrington is a compelling coming-of-age novel that delves into the complexities of family dynamics, love, loss, and resilience. Set against the backdrop of a small town in the United States, the story follows the titular character, Alice, as she navigates the challenges of adolescence while her father is deployed to Iraq. Through its poignant narrative, the novel explores the profound impact of war on the lives of those left behind and the enduring strength of the human spirit.

Brief Synopsis

Plot Overview

"Alice Bliss" unfolds in the town of Harmony, Maine, where the Bliss family resides. The narrative primarily revolves around Alice, a bright and spirited teenager, her mother, Angie, and her father, Matt, who is a National Guardsman deployed to Iraq. As Alice grapples with the complexities of growing up, she is faced with the emotional strain of her father's absence and the uncertainty of his well-being in a war-torn country.


The novel is predominantly set in the tranquil and close-knit community of Harmony, Maine, which serves as a stark contrast to the harsh realities of war. The idyllic backdrop of the town provides a poignant juxtaposition to the turmoil experienced by the characters, underscoring the impact of the war on their lives.

Main Characters

The characters in "Alice Bliss" play pivotal roles in shaping the narrative and driving the emotional depth of the story.

Alice BlissThe protagonist, a spirited teenager grappling with her father's deployment and the challenges of growing up.
Angie BlissAlice's mother, who juggles her own fears and responsibilities while supporting her family during her husband's absence.
Matt BlissAlice's father, a National Guardsman deployed to Iraq, whose absence casts a shadow over the family.

Story Points Over Chapters

Chapters 1-3

The narrative introduces readers to the Bliss family and the impending deployment of Matt, setting the stage for the emotional upheaval that will unfold. Alice navigates her own personal struggles while coming to terms with her father's departure, and the family begins to grapple with the void left by his absence.

Chapters 4-6

As the story progresses, Alice wrestles with the challenges of adolescence, friendships, and first love, all while coping with the weight of her father's deployment. The emotional strain on the Bliss family becomes palpable, and Angie endeavors to provide stability and support for Alice amid her own anxieties.

Chapters 7-9

The impact of war becomes increasingly prominent as the characters confront the harsh realities of separation, loss, and the ever-present fear of the unknown. Alice's resilience is tested, and the community of Harmony rallies around the Bliss family, offering both solace and solidarity in the face of adversity.

Chapters 10-12

As the novel reaches its climax, the toll of war on the Bliss family becomes profoundly evident, leading to moments of heartache, introspection, and unwavering determination. Through poignant exchanges and poignant revelations, the characters undergo profound growth and self-discovery.

Main Events

The novel is punctuated by several significant events that shape the emotional landscape of the narrative:

  1. Matt's Deployment: The deployment of Alice's father to Iraq serves as a central event that sets the tone for the emotional turmoil experienced by the Bliss family.
  2. Alice's Coming of Age: As Alice grapples with the complexities of adolescence, her personal growth and emotional resilience are tested in the face of her father's absence.
  3. Community Support: The unwavering support of the Harmony community serves as a beacon of hope for the Bliss family, highlighting the power of compassion and solidarity in times of adversity.

Themes and Insights


  • Family Dynamics: The novel delves into the intricate dynamics of the Bliss family, portraying the impact of Matt's deployment on each member and the resilience that binds them together.
  • Adolescence and Identity: Alice's journey through adolescence is a focal point, highlighting the nuances of self-discovery, first love, and the challenges of navigating the transition to adulthood.
  • War and Its Ramifications: The novel offers a poignant portrayal of the far-reaching impact of war, emphasizing the emotional toll on those left behind and the enduring strength of the human spirit.


  • Resilience in Adversity: Through the characters' experiences, the novel underscores the resilience and fortitude that emerge in the face of adversity, illuminating the indomitable human spirit.
  • Community and Support: The unwavering support of the Harmony community serves as a testament to the profound impact of compassion and solidarity in times of hardship, offering a source of solace for the Bliss family.

Reader's Takeaway

"Alice Bliss" offers readers a poignant and emotionally resonant narrative that delves into the complexities of family, love, and resilience. Through its compelling portrayal of the impact of war on the lives of those left behind, the novel invites readers to contemplate the enduring strength of the human spirit and the profound connections that sustain us in times of adversity. With its richly drawn characters and evocative storytelling, "Alice Bliss" is a captivating exploration of the indelible bonds that unite us and the resilience that carries us through life's most challenging moments.


In "Alice Bliss," Laura Harrington crafts a deeply moving narrative that captures the essence of human resilience and the enduring power of love and familial bonds. Through its poignant portrayal of the impact of war on the Bliss family, the novel invites readers to contemplate the profound depths of the human spirit and the unwavering support found within the embrace of community. With its evocative storytelling and richly drawn characters, "Alice Bliss" stands as a testament to the enduring strength that emerges in the face of adversity, offering a poignant and emotionally resonant reading experience.

Alice Bliss FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'Alice Bliss'?

    The genre of 'Alice Bliss' is contemporary fiction.

  2. Who is the author of 'Alice Bliss'?

    The author of 'Alice Bliss' is Laura Harrington.

  3. What is the main theme of 'Alice Bliss'?

    The main theme of 'Alice Bliss' revolves around family dynamics, love, and resilience during challenging times.

  4. Is 'Alice Bliss' suitable for young adult readers?

    Yes, 'Alice Bliss' is suitable for young adult readers as it deals with themes that resonate with this audience.

  5. Does 'Alice Bliss' have any trigger warnings?

    Some readers may find 'Alice Bliss' to contain themes of loss, deployment, and family struggles, so it may have triggers for those sensitive to such topics.