Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

March 21, 2013

Lauded writer to speak, bring 'Bliss' to library

The Andover Townsman

---- — Laura Harrington, award-winning writer of plays, operas and musical theater, will speak about her first novel, “Alice Bliss,” on Tuesday, April 9 at 7 p.m. in Memorial Hall Library.

Memorial Hall Library will host a book discussion session on Monday, April 1 at 7 p.m. for all readers who would like to share their thoughts on “Alice Bliss” before Harrington’s visit on Tuesday, April 9.

Harrington has twice won both the Massachusetts Cultural Council Award in playwriting and the Clauder Competition for best new play in New England. The winner of the 2008 Kleban Award for “most promising librettist in American Musical Theatre,” she has written dozens of plays, musicals, operas, and radio plays, which have been produced in 28 states, Canada, and Europe, in venues ranging from Off-Broadway to Houston Grand Opera to the Paris Cinemateque.

Harrington has also collected a Boston IRNE Award for Best New Play, a Bunting Institute Fellowship at Harvard/Radcliffe, a Whiting Foundation Grant-in-Aid, the Joseph Kesselring Award for Drama, a New England Emmy, and a Quebec Cinemateque Award.

She teaches playwriting at MIT, where she was awarded the 2009 Levitan Prize for Excellence in Teaching. She is also a frequent guest artist at Tufts, Harvard, Wellesley, Skidmore and the University of Iowa, according to the library.

“Alice Bliss,” her first novel, widely acclaimed in print and online, has won the 2012 Massachusetts Book Award in Fiction. Alice Bliss, a Penguin book, has also been published in the United Kingdom, Italy, and Denmark.

Anne Roiphe, author of “Epilogue: A Memoir,” describes “Alice Bliss” as “the Our Town of the 21st century.”

The library offers this description of the story:

When Alice learns that her father, Matt Bliss, is being deployed to Iraq, she’s heartbroken. Alice idolizes her dad, working beside him in their garden, accompanying him on the occasional roofing job, playing baseball. After Matt ships out, her mother begins to crumble under the pressure of suddenly being a single parent ,and Alice struggles to fill the void as she balances the drama of adolescence with the effort of keeping her family together.

But Alice is supported by a safety net strung with relationships, including almost-boyfriends, a grandmother, a baker with too many children, her track coach, her kid sister, her Uncle Eddie, and even her well meaning but complicated mom. She will learn to drive, plant her father’s garden, and fall in love, all while trying to be strong for her mother, 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 his infrequent 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; complicated love between an adolescent girl and her mother; and an exploration of new love with the boy-next-door.

Harrington will do a book signing after her talk. The Andover Bookstore will have copies of Alice Bliss for sale. These events are sponsored by the Friends of Memorial Hall Library.