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Johan K, Glossopdale Community College

The Smell of Other People's Houses

“The Smell of Other People’s Houses” is a book that I found quite strange – a lot weirder than Wolf Hollow! The book is full of coincidences, and is set in Alaska: Fairbanks being a major setting. It is narrated by four different people: Ruth, Dora, Alyce and Hank, who all have different perspectives and scenarios. Each of these stories become coincidentally intertwined.
Of all four of the characters, Ruth has to be my favourite, due to the theme of resilience that she represents. She initially has bad views about her Gran, but after living with nuns due to her pregnancy, she changes her views. She comes out as a much nicer person, and is very grateful, even though she has had major setbacks.
The plot is quite complicated, but to summarise (this is so complicated that it is necessary in order for me to remember the plot):
• Ruth’s parents have deserted her, and she lives with her “horrible” Gran. She becomes pregnant, and has to live with nuns, but when she leaves, she becomes a whole new person.
• Dora won a lot of money in a lottery, and is constantly harassed because of it: for example, her dad who has just come out of prison threatens to shoot her. Then, one of her best friends is severely wounded at fish camp, as they try to tell Ruth’s mother about her pregnancy.
• Alyce is a dancer, and wants to audition, but thinks that her dad won’t let her, as they are fishing. She rescues Hank’s brother who fell off a ferry, and takes him as a companion.
• Hank ran away from his parents with his two brothers: one of which fell off a ferry and is saved by Alyce. They are adopted by Selma: coincidentally one of Ruth’s friends in Fairbanks.
The writer (Hitchcock) successfully manages to create a complicated story that she manages to control: in retrospect, the basic storyline was not too difficult to follow. Hitchcock brings in a theme of poverty, experienced by each of the protagonists, and the different smells near the sea play a big part.
However, the title (The Smell of Other People’s Houses) is not a major theme. It is most relevant when Ruth is talking about the cedar smell in Ray’s house. After that, the only relevance is to do with the smell of the sea, which is still not too major.
In conclusion, this book is cleverly written by Hitchcock, but it is also extremely difficult to understand. I would recommend a pad and paper to be handy, just to note down the basics of each character! Young teenagers would probably prefer this book the most, and I would give this book four out of five stars.

Posted on: 4th April 2017 at 08:48 pm

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