Aside from having one of the most beautiful covers I’ve seen this year, Bonnie Sue Hitchcock’s The Smell of Other People’s Houses was one of my favorite reads of 2017.
I devoured this book a few months ago on a flight from Philly to Nola. It was the perfect, short book to bring on a flight and from the gate to landing, I could not put this book down.
I first learned about this book when watching Booktube videos earlier in the summer. The title really captured my interest, because wow. The smell of other people’s houses? Totally reminded me of how different family members and my own family’s home always had a distinct smell that either brought comfort or a bit of anxiety, depending on where I was. Anyone relate?
This novel is set in 1970’s Alaska, shortly after they became a part of the United States. So it’s a classified as historical fiction, and delves into the impact that statehood has on the storyline and our characters. The book shares the story lines of four different teenagers all dealing with different challenges with their families, themselves and their relationships to others. All four storylines come together in the most beautiful and satisfying way, without being cliche.
I gave this book five stars and it deserved every one.
First, the writing was outstanding. It managed to take on a poetic prose without being over the top or disconnecting you from some of the heavier plot points. I never felt bored while reading or uninterested from what was happening. This was certainly a page turned.
The Smell of Other People’s Houses is an extremely character driven book. Although the plot points definitely keep you interested and there are definitely active, moving story lines, it’s the four teens in this book that really draw you in.
We spend a lot of time having the characters explain their thoughts, taking trips through their heads. I loved reading how they saw themselves, how they viewed their lives and situations and having that juxtaposed by another characters assessment of them. Another nod to the skillful writing.
Like I mentioned, this book is set in 1970’s Alaska. A lot of the story sheds light on issues that impacted Alaskans as Statehood became a reality including alcoholism and incarceration, especially among men, the struggling economy and what that led to, and cultural issues.
Hitchcock manages to include and navigate some darker topics without having the book feel too heavy or sad. If you’re sensitive to domestic violence or abuse or suicide, those themes are definitely very present in the book.
I cannot wait to pick this book up again. It definitely makes my favorite books of all time list. If you’re looking for a compelling, character driven book that you can read quickly and featuring diverse peoples and issues, pick this up immediately.
If you’ve read this, please tell me what you think in the comments! No spoilers –in case others are commenting too who haven’t read and want to!