Google+ Reading Teen: THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES by Bonnie - Sue Hitchcock \\ Weird Title, Great Book

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES by Bonnie - Sue Hitchcock \\ Weird Title, Great Book

Review by Jennifer
by Bonnie - Sue Hitchcock
Grade Level: 7 and up
Lexile Measure: 0960 (What's this?)
Hardcover: 240 pages
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books (February 23, 2016)
Goodreads | Amazon

In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. This deeply moving and authentic debut is for fans of Rainbow Rowell, Louise Erdrich, Sherman Alexie, and Benjamin Alire Saenz. Intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America’s Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare talent.

Ruth has a secret that she can’t hide forever. Dora wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce is trying to reconcile her desire to dance, with the life she’s always known on her family’s fishing boat. Hank and his brothers decide it’s safer to run away than to stay home—until one of them ends up in terrible danger.

Four very different lives are about to become entangled. This unforgettable book is about people who try to save each other—and how sometimes, when they least expect it, they succeed.

Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock was born and raised in Alaska. She worked many years fishing commercially with her family and as a reporter for Alaska Public Radio stations around the state. She was also the host and producer of “Independent Native News,” a daily newscast produced in Fairbanks, focusing on Alaska Natives, American Indians, and Canada’s First Nations. Her writing is inspired by her family’s four generations in Alaska.
THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE'S HOUSES was not what I expected. It is beautifully written. I think I might have been turned off by the title, which after reading, is perfect. The descriptions of the smells, sights and emotions were so vivid (yet not annoying) that I was entranced by them. In fact, they were snuck in so softly that I took them for granted at times, often just expecting them. 
The four stories intersect right away, which was nice. I never waited for the characters' connections, it was clear from the start. My favorite characteristic of this story was the four viewpoints. As each character picked up where the other left off, I was never left needing more. All of us can relate to making assumptions about other people, how they live, and who they are. But, as we tend to find out, our assumptions remain just that, until we look deeper. 

Ruth was a sympathetic, humbling character who couldn't live in the present. Alyce felt compelled to please her father with who she thought he expected her to be. Dora was a private, defensive girl, with an alcoholic mother and father in prison, living with her best friend's family, secretly hoping she would never have to leave. Hank was the oldest of three brothers, who took on the father role in the family (after losing their own) to protect his brothers. All of these characters are searching for different degrees of love and truth. And thankfully, all of them find it. 

The sense of community in this book was a perfect undertone. I smelled, imagined and felt what it was like to live in Fairbanks, Alaska in the 1970's. Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock offers an amazing, emotional ride back in time that will not disappoint.

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