Monday, April 7, 2014

Review: "The Blessings" by Elise Juska

I was fortunate enough to receive an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC) of "The Blessings" by Elise Juska. I devoured this book quickly, and am eager to pass it on to my mom, a bibliophile like me, who is the lucky recipient of books I have loved.
The Blessings are a large Irish-American family from Philadelphia. They are your stereotypical big family, with aunts and uncles and large gatherings. During family events or dinners, the men gather around the television watching sports, while the women gather in the kitchen, talking about neighbors and friends and the latest gossip.
What makes "The Blessings" such an enjoyable novel, though, is Juska's brilliant descriptive writing and the multiple points of view that are presented. Each chapter comes from the perspective of a different member of the Blessing family. There is genius in this, in that the reader not only gets an intimate look at each character's thoughts, but also builds empathy and emotional attachments to each one within the course of a single chapter.
The novel encompasses a couple decades, starting with Abby, a freshman in college experiencing the world outside of her close-knit family for the first time, and ending later on with Elena, a young college graduate who has looked up to Abby and is now on her own to experience the world as well. Through the years, the Blessings face the loss of one of their own to cancer, the decline into senility and eventual death of the matriarch, divorce, bulimia, troubled young men, and the temptation of infidelity. While all these themes might normally be too heavy a burden for lesser novels to encompass at once, Juska's presentation as glimpses into different character's viewpoints makes the transition between each event seamless. The vignettes of each character and how they perceive each circumstance allows the book to flow easily through the years. Certain flashbacks enable the reader to see a situation from various point of view, and how each has affected multiple member of the family in one way or another.
 I was left cheering for this family and feeling as though I was tied to them through the heartstrings that Juska wove in this novel. It is splendid in its telling. Her descriptive writing is not heavy, making for light yet deeply penetrating reading. I highly recommend this book, especially as a solid summer read. It is currently available for pre-order on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other booksellers. It is set to be released at the beginning of May 2014.

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About Me

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I first joined the Marine Corps in February of 1999. I was stationed at Camp Pendleton for three years and in Okinawa for one. I left active duty in 2003 and joined the Reserves that year. I had my first daughter in 2005, and moved from California to Massachusetts in 2006. I left the Marine Corps at that time, and had my second daughter in 2007. I reenlisted in the Corps in September of 2008 and went Active in 2009. I'm currently stationed back in California, loving the weather and the life!