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My immediate family is small. Growing up, we lived across the street from a family of nine, and some of my grammar school and high school friends came from large families, thus I got to know these families from afar. Their houses fascinated me with large tables in the kitchen, children of various ages spilling from room to room, and people pegging where they were in the family pecking order. Reading THE BLESSINGS by Elise Juska reminded me of these families, where alone time is hard to come by and everyone lives in and out of each other’s pockets.
Told in multiple points of view over the course of two decades, we get to know the Blessings of Philadelphia from many angles. It’s like a camera is swiveling from one person to the next, and we get to know them up close and personal before switching perspectives. We learn about the family from various people’s own stories that then are layered onto the bigger picture. Opinions fly. Judgments are made. But, in the end, it all comes down to family --- and being there for each other.
One note: I thought the death that spins the family in a new direction would be from one member of the family, but, alas, it’s another that shifted the orienting point on the compass. There were lots of surprises along the way. There was real life in all its messiness. There also was a lot of love, a lot of joy…and a lot of family. Juska has penned one very compelling debut. HER family should be proud.