Thursday, February 25, 2016

ARC Review: The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Title: The Smell of Other People's Houses
Written by: Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock
Published: February 23, 2016 by Wendy Lamb Books (Random House)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: In Alaska, 1970, being a teenager here isn’t like being a teenager anywhere else. 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.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ****

What an unexpected surprise this book was. I had been hearing a little bit about it lately but all the reviews were so good so when I saw it on Netgalley I grabbed a copy and I am so glad that I did because this book was great.

The Smell of Other People's Houses is about four teenagers and their desire for more than what they have. Narrative structures with a lot of different character perspectives can be hit or miss for me but here it seemed to work. Despite the fact that they may have been in different places or be going through very different things there was this overarching theme about wanting to break out and away from who or where you are. This is a theme that I always love and it was fantastic here. Plus each character is so sympathetic and engaging, you can't help but fall for them and want to see them succeed. If I had to pick a favorite I think it would be either Ruth or Dora. They were both going through really different things but their lives were not easy and my heart definitely went out to them.

But I think the other reason that I liked the changing perspectives was because there was so much overlap. Their lives intertwine in complex ways that kept me interested. There are so many subtle ways that the characters interact and influence one another's lives for the better. It had this subtle undercurrent of the power of not only friendship but how perfect strangers can help you get through life even when you least expect it. It was brilliant and subtle in the way it made you feel that too. It's not a book that really spells things out for you and while I appreciated that, it did make things a little confusing at times. I had to keep reminding myself who the characters were and how they knew one another.

Despite being categorized as historical fiction, this book has a timeless quality that will appeal to fans of contemporaries and coming of age stories. It doesn't really reference a lot of specific historical events. The setting is less about the time period and more about the actual location of Alaska. It had a great small town feel to it with quirky town activities and trips salmon fishing and on ferries in waters full of Orca whales. I also loved that the characters had a lot of diversity, appropriately including Alaskan natives as a big part of the story. It's not so much about a time and place as it is about the people. At times it's heart-breaking and emotional but in the end it had such a satisfying that I left with unexpected warm fuzzies.

This is a short read coming in at 240 pages but the impact of the book was similar to those of twice it's size. There is so much packed into the story that you almost have to take your time with it. And the gorgeous and lyrical writing also makes you slow down and let the words and emotions really sink in. This is a book full of feels and the writing allows you to not only feel the emotions of the characters but the beautiful and tragic setting of the book as well.

On the whole, The Smell of Other People's Houses really impressed me. It is a fantastic and beautiful read full of great characters that you can't help but empathize with and an emotional plot that will stick with you long after you finish. I loved it.

I give The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy! I would not hesitate to recommend The Smell of Other People's Houses. Especially for anyone who is looking for a good coming of age story or a character-driven book with amazing writing. It's a brilliant debut and a great read.

Have you read The Smell of Other People's Houses? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!


  1. I’m glad you liked this one. I’m so excited to read it. (As soon as my book-buying ban is over.)

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

    1. Hahaha, book buying bans! The worst best things. I hope you get a chance to read it soon and love it too.

  2. I love the title! And your review makes me really want to read it even thought character-driven books aren't really my thing. I'm realizing I need a good amount of plot to hold my interest. Do you think I should give it a try?

    1. It's a great title and a fantastic read!bi prefer plot driven too but this one was really good. Maybe get it from the library if you're uncertain. I hope you like it.

  3. I do really like coming of age stories, but when I seen this one I was like, uh uh no way. But this review might have convinced me. I'd like to nab it at the library. Great review!

    1. I wasn't entirely sure about it either. I grabbed it on a whim and loved it. It has a great contemporary feel that I think you might like. Library is a good idea though.

  4. I loved this book and I am not a Historical Fiction person, but I liked reading about a 70s setting. I think I will seek out more books set in the 70s. I too loved the way the author wove the storylines together. She was very skillful. Thanks for the review. :)

    1. Yay, La La. So glad you loved it too. I'm a big historical fan but it was the contemporary elements that I likes so much. I agree, the way she weaved all the stories was fantastic.