Summer reading series: Leaving behind life in DC for a family camp in the woods

December 4, 2023 | Author Carolyn Parkhurst discusses her new novel 'Harmony' (WTOP's Rachel Nania)

WASHINGTON — “How bad would things have to be for me to say, ‘You know what? Forget it. I’m just going to change everything.’”

That was the question author Carolyn Parkhurst posed just before sitting down to write her latest novel, “Harmony.”

The book, released Aug. 2, shares some parallels with Parkhurst’s life. Both Parkhurst and the fictional Hammond family live in D.C., and both have a child with an autism spectrum disorder.

“I think that there are a lot of stresses on all parents, but especially on parents of kids with special needs, and it can be very lonely and isolating,” Parkhurst said.

“So I really wanted to write about the day-to-day struggles and put the reader inside that experience.”

Tired of searching for answers that don’t seem to exist in the daily grind of Washington, the Hammonds (mom, dad and two daughters) pack up their life and move to the woods of New Hampshire. It’s there where they enroll in Camp Harmony, a camp for families with special needs children, run by behavior guru Scott Bean.

“When you meet someone who says they can help you, I think that [parents who have children with special needs] are more vulnerable than other parents might be to that kind of promise,” Parkhurst said about the Hammond’s desperate and drastic move.

At first, Parkhurst describes Bean as a charismatic character whose perspectives on life make sense on a very basic level — that modern life is over stimulating and driven by digital devices.

“I think a lot of people think that getting back to nature is not such a bad thing,” Parkhurst said.

As the story progresses, Bean becomes more controlling and less stable, and suspense builds. “Harmony” shows just how far families are willing to go to bring peace to their everyday trials.

Parkhurst says while the book is meant to be an entertaining read, it also carries an underlying message to parents with similar family dynamics.

“A lot of the impulse for writing the book came out of that. My experiences with raising [my son] have been filled with unexpected challenges, and some unexpected rewards too, and I hadn’t seen that reflected before in a lot of books or popular culture,” she said.

Carolyn Parkhurst will be reading from her latest novel, “Harmony,” Saturday, Aug. 6 at Politics and Prose at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

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