The Smell of Other People’s Houses – Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

smell of other people's housesA portrait of 1970 Alaska is vividly portrayed through the eyes of teens, each struggling with very real issues.  Ruth feels like the central character because she leads the story. We feel her sense of abandonment because she can remember what it was like to have loving parents.  Her sister, Lily, was just an infant so maybe that is why Lily is better adjusted to being raised by their grandmother.  Alyce wants to dance and audition for a ballet scholarship but she must spend the summers fishing with her father.  Dora is abused by her drunken father but finds safe haven when the family of her best friend, Dumpling, takes her in.  Then there are the brothers who stow away aboard a ferry, running to a better life or anything really, until one falls overboard.  The poverty, the communal feel of the village, the daily struggles, the cold and icy slush, the feel of the fish camp, and the wild beauty of Alaska, are all so intense.  While each teen endures so much, the story culminates in hope, acceptance, and love.

This is one of the best books I have read in a while.  It’s a rather quick read.  The opening pages with the long cast of characters seems daunting, but no.  Just dive into the story and the characters will come alive.  Highly recommend.

eGalley review            Publication date 2.23.16

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