Thanks for beginning a new thread.
I recently finished a novel called Harmony by an author called Carolyn Parkhurst.
I’m sure I’ve had this experience before, but I can’t think of any good examples off the top of my head: a book that I really, really liked until I got to the ending, which was…terrible. (Maybe Gone Girl. Well, the first five sixths of Gone Girl was better, and the ending of Harmony was worse, so…maybe not.)
The book deals with a family in DC: mom, dad, 13-and-11-year-old daughters (ages at the time the action begins). Older daughter is a major challenge–diagnosed with pervasive development disorder, which simultaneously explains everything and nothing. School is hard, home is hard, friends are hard–everything is very difficult with her. The dad is frustrated, the mom is immensely frustrated, teachers are frustrated. Younger daughter, who is neurotypical, loves and resents her sister and gets lost in the shuffle a lot.
The mom hears a guy named Scott give a talk about the challenges of raising extremely complicated kids. Scott has some interesting ideas, she thinks, but mostly he seems kind, compassionate, and good with kids, though he’s not a parent, psychologist, or therapist. Over time Scott becomes more and more important in the family’s life, helping them manage the many many issues one on one as well as in groups, and if they squint hard they can see progress… eventually the family agrees to join Scott and a couple of other families in running a summer camp for families with children like theirs.
The book is told partly by the younger daughter in the present time (what things are like at the camp) and most of the rest in flashback by the mom explaining “how we got here.” Much of this is great. My own two kids were very complex, though not THIS complex thank goodness, and the author does a great job of explaining what it’s like to try to parent kids in this situation. (Embarrassment, frustration, living on pins and needles, what’s going to happen next???) The writing is generally very good, the voices are strong (okay, the 11-year-old sometimes comes across as too sophisticated for her age, and the mom tells her chapters in the second person, which doesn’t work very well), and there’s this excellently-managed sense of foreboding as we see more and more problems with Scott, issues which the younger daughter sees clearly but doesn’t understand and the parents refuse to see at all…
…and just as I was saying “Wow, this is good, wonder how she is going to end it?”, the book completely fizzles with an ending that is not in the least believable and seems to be mainly in the service of “I’m over deadline, better think of something quick.” Very unsatisfying on every level.
Oh well. As I say, there’s a lot of good things about the novel till we hit the last 25-30 pages or so. If you want a realistic account of what it’s like to live with a kid who has PDD, this is a fine choice. Just stop reading while the stopping’s good :).