The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Published by Faber & Faber
Source: Allen & Unwin
Rating: 5 stars
From the blurb: Alaska, 1970: growing up here is like nowhere else.
Ruth wants to be remembered by her grieving mother.Dora wishes she was invisible to her abusive father.Alyce is staying at home to please her parents.Hank is running away for the sake of his brothers.
Four very different lives are about to become entangled. Because if we don't save each other, how can we begin to save ourselves?
The Smell of Other People's Houses is Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock's debut novel. Set in 1970 in Alaska, the story revolves around four kids - Ruth, Dora, Alyce, and Hank. Ruth and her younger sister Lily live with their grandmother in Fairbanks, alongside Dora and Alyce. Dora's dad is an alcoholic so she's taken shelter at Dumpling and Bunny's house. Alyce wants to be a ballet dancer, but her passion is in conflict with the time she spends time with her father on his fishing boat and she doesn't want to displease him. Hank and his younger brothers are running away from home.
We don’t learn a lot about American history at school in Australia, unless it involves war, so reading a book set in Alaska during the 70s was fascinating to me because it’s not a place I know much about (I hardly think seeing one episode of Slednecks gave me a good idea of life there), so I was surprised to find out that Alaska wasn’t a state until 1959, something mentioned in the story as being a major issue for Alaskans.
Alaska sounds like a beautiful place, but also somewhere that knows true hardship. The characters in this story certainly represented that, each of them wanting more and striving for better lives. I felt for all the kids in this story, they struggle with their family situations, often misunderstanding their family or their past. I loved seeing the characters grow and become stronger, more hopeful.
It’s always wonderful to see how authors make multiple story lines come together, in this case each of them stands on their own but they also fit together seamlessly. I could see where some of them would end up, others surprised me with the direction they took.
The Smell of Other People’s Houses is a beautiful, moving debut featuring a setting, culture, and time period not often seen in YA fiction. It’s a vivid and captivating story of love, family, friendship, and determination.
Thank you to Allen & Unwin for my review copy. RRP AUD $16.99
Cover illustration: Li-Wen Chu
I adore this cover and it played a major part in my need to read this book because I just had to paint it!
I started with a base of China Glaze First Mate. I sponged on Barry M Cobalt Blue and L.A Colors Blue. I used acrylic paint for the details.