Summary: The Smell of Other People’s Houses takes place in 1970s Alaska and is told from the perspectives of four teens whose lives are more connected than they ever could imagine. Ruth just wants to be remembered, but not for the secret her and her gran are trying to hide from their village. Dora wants to escape her abusive past and hopes that she’ll finally have good fortune, even if its comes from the Ice Classic. Alyce struggles to balance her life dancing with her life working on her family’s fishing boat. Hank thinks he’s leading his brothers to safety, until the unthinkable happens.
My Rating: 5/5 Stars
Let me start by saying that I devoured The Smell of Other People’s Houses in less than a day between the beach and the pool. Maybe it seems odd that I was reading a book set in cold, snowy Alaska on an eight-five degree summer day, but I was hooked by the start. I’ve never read a book that takes place in Alaska before, so it was really cool to learn more about life there, especially since Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock is from the village in the novel. The Smell of Other People’s Houses takes place soon after Alaska receives statehood, so it was interesting to see how most Alaskans were upset by becoming a state (it affected a lot of their hunting regulations) and how the continued to refer to the rest of the United States and Canada as the outside.
The Smell of Other People’s Houses features a big cast of characters, especially since our story is told from four different perspectives. While the four POVs are connected, as three of them live and grew up together in the same village, it did become a bit confusing at times to remember how people were related to each other. However, I was super excited to have a book where I enjoyed all of the POVs, even though Ruth and Alyce were my favorites. It was interesting to see how Ruth handled being pregnant, let alone how it affected her relationship with her gran, and I enjoyed how she got to find out more about her family history. I really enjoyed Alyce’s POV for her time spent on her dad’s fishing boat. I enjoyed reading from Dora’s perspective as well, especially because of her relationship with Dumpling and Dumpling’s family, but even when she “explains” why, I never really understood her animosity towards Ruth. My favorite part of Hank’s POV was seeing how his journey connected back to the people in Fairbanks (Phil was my favorite in his POV).
After finishing The Smell of Other People’s Houses, the only question that remained in my mind was why I hadn’t heard of this book earlier! However, I am glad that I read it when I did! It was not only the perfect weekend read for its length (223 pages may seem short, but it handled this story perfectly), but it was also an emotion-filled story focused on family, carrying the message that people “don’t have to be blood to be family”.
Thanks to Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s beautiful writing and novel, I’m feeling a bit of wanderlust: Alaska, here I come! Have you read The Smell of Other People’s Houses? Share in the comments!