Hello, everyone! I'm excited to bring you another week of great books! Part 1 of this week is The Smell of Other People's Houses. If you missed the Monday post announcement, you can see this week's other post below. As I also said on Instagram, I may or may not get an editorial out on Friday. The easiest way to find out about new books and posts in to follow us on social media or subscribe to our email list. There's more information on that below. As a quick reading update, I'm almost finished with The Dazzling Heights which I'm really enjoying right now. I'll be sharing my thoughts on it along with Turtles All The Way Down on the sixteenth of October, and on September 22, I'm sharing an early review of A Short History of the Girl Next Door.
The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (227 pages)
Overview: Set in 1970s Alaska, Hitchcock brings readers the stories of Ruth, Dora, Alyce, and Hank along with the many people they encounter on their very different yet intersecting journeys. Mostly taking place in Fairbanks, Alaska, the book explores many of the issues they faced and beliefs they had then such as coping with new statehood and their very strict policy about sharing others misdeeds even when the situation is horrible and possibly dangerous. Despite this really being a historical fiction novel and set in a remote place few readers have probably seen, Hitchcock makes this and accessible story with themes that are very relevant even in the modern day. Overall: 4
Characters: 4 The reader is presented with an interesting group of characters. First, we are introduced to Ruth who lives with her grandmother following her father's plane crash and her mother's mental health deterioration. Her strict grandmother and an urge to break out of the constricting mold of their poor neighborhood leads Ruth to make some poor choices resulting in a life altering reality she must learn to navigate.
Next, there is Dora who lives in Ruth's same neighborhood. In light of her abusive father and mother who refuses to acknowledge the truth, Dora's friend Dumpling's family takes her in. She grapples with issues of belonging and feeling secure once again.
Alyce wants a ticket out of Fairbanks, and she believes summer dance auditions for colleges on the outside is the key. Instead, she is made to go work with her father and uncle on the fishing boat just like every year, but this time around she might find the trip a bit more worthwhile.
Finally there is Hank who tries to make a better life for his siblings after her mother remarries an abusive man. After stowing away on a ferry, Hank realizes that creating this new life will be trickier than he once imagined.
Each of these characters are good and have nuance, but they lacked the depth to really tug at your heart strings.
Plot: 4 This story follows each of the four narrator's stories until they finally intersect in the end. The plot was good but, at times, predictable. It also just felt a bit emotionally distant.
Writing: 4 The extreme use of imagery in this book gave each chapter both a poetic feel and almost the touch of a vignette type style. This also contributed in the tone of the book coming off more like a classic than a contemporary novel, even for historical fiction. The author did paint a very vivid picture in my mind of a place I know little about, but she seemed to have a problem getting the true emotion to come through in her writing. There reached a point where the story became stiff even though the events that happened begged for deep, emotional feelings.
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