Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Review: The Smell of Other People's Houses

Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Contemporary Young Adult
240 pages
Wendy Lamb Books/Penguin Random House
Available Now
Source: eARC from publisher for review

THE STORY (from Goodreads)
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.

The Smell of Other People's Houses is a story that's deceptively simple, one that gives us a few fleeting moments with a handful of characters as their lives briefly intertwine before leaving us at the last page waving a fond farewell. Despite it's more slice-of-life feel, it's a story that's hard to put down, the easy flow to the writing and the richness of the characters drawing us in and ensuring we're fully engaged from first page to last.

Stories with multiple narrators can be sometimes be tricky, a favorite among the group making time spent away from them a source of anxiety, but despite the presence of weightier issues involving teen pregnancy and various forms of child abuse and neglect, each character's story has a sort of quiet hope to it, making it hard to favor one over the others. Ruth finds herself pregnant and shipped off to an abbey to serve out her pregnancy in relative isolation, Dora battles a neglectful mother and the ghost of an abusive father, Hank attempts to save his brothers from a steadily worsening home situation by running away, and Alyce struggles with the guilt of a dream that differs from that of her father. Each has their own set of problems, but they all share an incredibly strong mental fortitude, facing their demons as they arise with a quiet strength that's endlessly fascinating.

They don't yell and rage at their circumstances, cursing and blaming their families for putting them in their current positions, instead they all simply deal as best they can and take us along for the ride as their problems lead them to one another. Wondering how each of their lives are going to intersect is part of the joy of this story, and while the end gives us no concrete answers as to how their lives are going to unfold moving forward, somehow it's enough just to have had these couple hundred pages with them.

Overall, The Smell of Other People's Houses is not a story that rips our hearts out and stomps on them or bowls us over with non-stop action, instead it slowly invites us in thanks to everyday people living everyday lives that just happen to be marked by more darkness than most. None of them allow that darkness to win though, bringing a smile to our faces as they each fight in their own way to hold on to what matters most.

Rating: 4/5

Find Bonnie-Sue:

Be sure and check out the other stops on this tour for more reviews of this outstanding debut!

2/16 – The Young Folks
2/17  – Reading with Cupcakes
2/18 – Jessabella Reads
2/19 – Across the Words
2/20 – The Hiding Spot
2/21 – Pretty Good Gatsby
2/22 – Once Upon a Twilight
2/23 – The Reading Nook Reviews
2/24 – The Social Potato
2/25 – The Cover Contessa
2/26 – Irish Banana
2/27 – Waste Paper Prose
2/28 – Page Turners Blog
2/29 – Collected Works
3/1 – Live to Read
3/2 – Supernatural Snark

This book was sent to me by the publisher  free of charge for the purpose of a review
I received no other compensation and the above is my honest opinion.


  1. It sounds interesting and it's nice to see that the story takes its time. I didn't know about it but you intrigued me and the cover is really beautiful!

  2. Great review! I have been really curious about this book and after reading your review, I will definitely add it to my TBR list. LOVE the cover!

  3. I love that this is such a positive book despite the situations of these characters not being the greatest. It really speaks to their strengths. I wasn't sure this one would be for me, but since you gave it your seal of approval, that's enough for me. :)
    Lovely review, Jenny!

  4. Beautiful review Jenny, just beautiful^^ I like the sound of this one, even though it's not my go-to genre, for some reason it's drawing me in. I'll have to check it out when I'm in the right mood for a story like this :)

  5. I was a bit worried that this book will be filled with drama and darkness given the situations of the characters in this book. I'm glad it has light moments too.

  6. I got this in the mail and was curious. You have to love the I think I will give it a go

  7. I was on the fence about requesting this ARC for ages, because - hello, incredible premise. This review pretty much sold me on it. The world (especially the YA world!) needs more characters who face the circumstances they're in and attempt to make the best of them rather than, y'know, throw temper tantrums. And the fact that it's interspersed with hopeful, positive moments makes it sound like a perfect read.

    Lovely review. <3

    - Lexie

  8. You said it perfectly, that's exactly how I felt. And I also liked each one of the narrators equally and so was fine with the changes when they switched. I loved how they were all connected in some way though they didn't know it.

  9. The title of this is so interesting! I've been seeing this around and so far all the reviews for it are so positive! It does make me want to pick it up and read it.

  10. I know Candace liked this one as well. It sounds so different, and the title is so unique.

  11. This sounds like the kind of book to enjoy on a slow day off, curled with a blanket & a cup of cocoa! Great review Jenny!

  12. I do like multi POV fork in the road type of reads. Yes, it can be tricky, but done well, it really works. This does sound interesting. Oh and a side joke from the title... I'm thinking ew... my big boy has been fragrancing the house of late and that is all I thought about is how someone would see my house. ROFL

  13. currently reading this one. Honestly, I first dreaded this when I see all list of cast of characters. It's like too many people! I can't even remember who is who, then I said, never mine will just read the book. So far I'm enjoying it.

  14. I was sent an unsolicited copy of this and after seeing reviews it intrigued ,e. I don't have time to read it but I did download the audiobook. I hope I like it too!

  15. I've seen this one around quite a bit and I definitely want to pick it up, especially since I'm all about the softer, more reflective novels than the stomp-on-your-emotions novels. Plus, this title and cover are just irresistible. Lovely review, Jenny!

  16. Great review! I'm going to have to pick this up soon.

    -Shauna (b00kstorebabe)