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Bharat, French International School Hong Kong

The Smell of Other People's Houses

The Smell Of Other People's Houses is set in Alaska, 1970, and is set in the perspective of four teenagers with very different lives. In each chapter the narrator changes to a different person, rotating repeatedly between the four protagonists: Ruth, Dora, Alyce and Hank.

Ruth lives with her grandmother in a small town called Fairbanks and her family is relatively poor compared to the others around them. She gets involved with a rich kid, Ray Stevens, and accidentally gets pregnant. At first, she keeps it a secret, but soon everyone finds out and she is sent to a nunnery in Canada to find a suitable family to adopt the baby. Dora lives in Fairbanks and is in Ruth's neighbourhood as well. Her father is abusive and her mother gets drunk very often so she stays with her best friend, Dumpling, and her family. She wonders if she can ever truly escape where she comes from, even when good luck strikes. Alyce's parents are divorced. She spends the summer with her father, fishing on a boat. She wants to be a ballerina dancer and is trying out in an audition after the summer. Hank lives with his two other brothers Jack and Sam. His mother remarried and they hate their new stepdad so the three brothers decide to run away, sneaking through the cargo of a departing ship. Soon Sam is lost overboard, and Jack and Hank are miserable and desperate to find him. These four very different lives get entangled as the story progresses.

In my opinion, though, the pace of the story is very slow, long and dreary. I suppose I felt this way because I am accustomed to books with constant action and suspense. I felt this book did not have enough suspenseful moments - it was more poetic. It did feel very satisfying, however, when Hank and Jack reunite with Sam, who was saved by Alyce. This would be the result of extremely thorough and deep development of the characters throughout the book, which I must say I really appreciate. But I would have enjoyed this book more if it was paced a little faster and there was more action.

Posted on: 19th April 2017 at 03:42 pm

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