Skip to main content

The Smell of Other People's Houses

Review

The Smell of Other People's Houses

Being a teenager is hard. We all know that. But imagine being a teenager in 1970s Alaska, a virtual wasteland, during a year in which the world and America were still finding their footing. Being a teenager is hard...but being a teenager under these circumstances is a whole different story.
 
THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES by debut author Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock follows the lives of four very different teenagers. Ruth has a secret that she can’t keep from her family forever. Dora spends cold days wondering if she will ever escape the terrible clutches of her past, even when a bit of fantastic luck comes her way. Alyce is trying to decide between following her dream of being a professional dancer and the life she has always known with her father on his fishing boat. Hank and his brothers just want to run away from everything --- until a horrific accident puts one of them in grave danger.

I still don’t know how Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock fit a perfectly paced, brilliantly plotted, and wonderfully wrapped-up story into 223 pages...THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES is a triumph....

These four different lives become twisted under the soft light of the Alaskan moon. Maybe they didn’t want to know each other, but as they get to know one another and secrets unfold, they realize they can’t let go --- ever.
 
Wow, this book took me on an emotional rollercoaster! Being me, I cry a lot while reading books and watching all forms of entertainment in general. I mean, I cried five times during my first viewing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and not one of them was even at the most emotional part. That being said, I seemed to be tearing up a bit more than usual while reading THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES. This story grabbed me in the first few pages, and honestly didn’t let go until I was sobbing at the last line, which, by the way, is now one of my favorite last lines of all time. Now you’re intrigued, aren’t you? I guess you’ll have to read the book, which isn’t a big time commitment, so don't worry if you don’t have a lot of free time. At 223 pages, you will be at the end in no time and wonder "How in the heck did that go by so fast?!" You will be flipping through the acknowledgements and scrabbling through the book looking for just one more page because you just can’t accept that you have to let go of these characters that have become like your children and this story that has become your life. You will wonder "How?!"
 
I’ll tell you how: the writing is perfection. I still don’t know how Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock fit a perfectly paced, brilliantly plotted, and wonderfully wrapped-up story into 223 pages. It’s some kind of wizardry, some Alaskan wizardry. Which brings me to my next point: Bonnie-Sue grew up in Alaska. She was a teenager there, probably in 1970. I don’t know about you, but this story meant so much more to me when I saw that she grew up in Alaska. It also made me sob even harder because it made me wonder if she or a loved one had to go through what some of her characters went through. I just...wow. Wow.
 
THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES was like a punch to the gut --- in a good way. It opened my eyes to the lifestyle that some people have to have while living in Alaska. I thought I lived in the middle of nowhere, but compared to these four achingly beautifully written characters --- who I now refuse to believe don’t exist and aren't surviving somewhere --- I live in a metropolis. To put this into perspective, I live in Midwest Ohio in a very small town that was basically built by farmers so they could have somewhere to sleep in between farming. But I am seeing my tiny, little town in a whole new light thanks to this beautiful novel. I couldn’t recommend it more, and if I didn’t convince you yet, I don’t think I ever could. THE SMELL OF OTHER PEOPLE’S HOUSES is a triumph, and I believe it will become a modern classic. I cannot even think of a book that is similar to this to recommend because it is in a class entirely of its own.

Reviewed by Bryn D., Teen Board Member on March 2, 2016

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