Sometimes a title just calls at you. The Smell of Other People’s Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock (Faber and Faber) is an evocative title that immediately had me reminiscing and stitching together memories of childhood. And that is how this beautiful YA debut felt to read; like stitching together stories and dreams. It tells four intertwining coming-of-age stories, weaving together family history and strong sense of location.
‘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? Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock’s extraordinary, stunning debut is both moving, and deeply authentic. These intertwining stories of love, tragedy, wild luck, and salvation on the edge of America’s Last Frontier introduce a writer of rare and wonderful talent.’
The sense of location soars through this book and centres everything. The descriptions of Alaska’s sounds, scents and sights are vivid and lyrical and the teen voices come to life from the page. The writing sings. Huge themes like teen pregnancy, poverty and domestic abuse are dealt with lightly but thoughtfully. The Smell of Other People’s Houses is heartbreaking yet hopeful. I loved it.
Evocative, immersive, impressive! A beautiful debut. You can get your copy here.