Published: February 23rd 2016
Publisher: Wendy Lamb Books
Genres: YA, Historical Fiction
Format: ebook Source: Library
My Rating: 4 Stars
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.
The Smell of Other People’s Houses is a quick read that pulls you in and makes you like these characters. It’s told from four POV’s: Ruth, Dora, Hank, and Alyce. Each one has their own struggles and I love how the author connected them all together at the end. I teared up a little while reading this, so it is definitely a story that will tug on your heartstrings.
Reasons I Think Historical Fiction & YA Readers Will Enjoy This Book…..
–The Characters– I enjoyed reading the multiple points-of-view, but my favorite character would have to be Ruth. That’s not surprising since she started this tale, and we get to see her world come crashing down around her at only 5 years old. As she fills you in on her past, you just want to reach inside the book and give her a hug. Her relationship with her grandmother was very strained. I kept wondering why her grandmother would be so callous towards her and her sister, but even after getting some answers, I still feel like it didn’t excuse her behavior. To me, Ruth stood out among the others. TBH, I kept reading to see how it would end for her, and fell for the other characters in the process. Dora has had it rough as well. When you live in a village that looks the other way when there’s trouble, that can make a girl feel like she won’t be saved and that mentality turns to anger. Dora really was all over the place emotionally. She loves Dumpling and her family. Her parents don’t care about her, so Dumpling’s family is everything. I expected Dora’s jealousy to rear its ugly head when she saw Dumpling talking to Ruth as she was leaving for Canada. I didn’t expect for her to be so angry. I get it, you found a good thing and you don’t want to share. I had to keep reminding myself of her situation, but it was really hard to like her character; yet, you don’t hate her either. Hank and Alyce weren’t that interesting to me, but I love how they became connected in the end. I can’t imagine being Hank. He had the weight of the world on his shoulders, and with 2 inquisitive younger brothers to look after, I’m surprised his hair didn’t turn gray. Alyce seemed to have it easier than the others, but she did have her own personal struggle with her future. I really wish that Selma would have had a POV, as she was way more interesting a character than Alyce.
–The History and Economics– This isn’t deep Alaskan history, but it’s enough. This book begins when Alaska becomes the 49th State of the Americas. What you get in this story is how Statehood changed the Natives in Alaska. It’s good that Alaska had good, hard working people fighting for them to remain as they were. It didn’t matter in the end, because what U.S. politicians want, they get. By any means necessary. Has anyone ever wondered how this country would be today if the Natives were able to keep their land? What if they hadn’t been slaughtered or forced to barter? It’s something I think about all the time.
There’s lots of fishing going on. This is how these families survive. Children learn the ropes as soon as they’re able to hold a knife. It got a little boring for me whenever Alyce was narrating, as she had to explain what she did on her father’s boat. It only got interesting when Sam came aboard. There’s a lot of poverty here, so that in itself will make you want to do something for these kids. Even when you know this is a fictional story, you want to climb in.
I really enjoyed this book. It is not a long read, so I was done within a few hours. This is only my second read set in Alaska (I think), but I’m sure it won’t be the last. This story tackles teen pregnancy, abuse, and faith. Even with all that, it’s still fairly easy to get through. I love how much this books is inspired by the author’s family. I can’t wait to read more from her. Definitely recommend!