Title: The Smell of Other People's Houses
Author: Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Age Group: Teen/Young Adult
Genre: Historical Fiction
Series: N/A, standalone
Star Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars
I borrowed this book from my local library and reviewed it.
I go to my library all the time--at least two or three times a week. As a result, I'm constantly taking books home, by my own selection and through recommendations, from other patrons and from the librarians themselves. One of them was telling me about this book, and when she told me the title, I wasn't enthused. I mean, The Smell of Other People's Houses? It sounded disgusting. But she reassured me that it was a work of historical fiction, told from multiple perspectives, in 19th century Alaska! So I figured, why not give it a shot? She's never steered me wrong before.
I finally got to it in the stack and I devoured it in a day. It was a beautifully written novel of family, coming of age, and the stark, wild beauty of Alaska. I love novels with multiple perspectives--the stories I read using that style usually resonate with me more. And it was even better because it was in first person. There are four young people at the center of this novel: Ruth, whose first love results in a life-changing ordeal, Dora, who wishes to escape the demons of her past and truly belong, Alyce, a fisherman's daughter who hesitates to leave home, even for her dreams, and Hank, who is running away from his ghosts. I really loved the pacing, too: It was quick and smooth, switching from each narrative and back again. But the shining stars of this novel were its characters, as well as its setting, Alaska.
I've always wanted to visit Alaska, but this book made that desire even stronger. I really felt as if I were there, in the crisp, clean air, white ice floes floating in dark ocean water, huge, shadowy shapes twisting through the waves... This book completely captured my imagination. It was a wonderful, thrilling debut. It was highly enjoyable. There were moments between the characters that seemed a little bit too contrived, but it was a wonderful novel. I'll be looking forward to more from Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock!