The Smell of Other People’s Houses, by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock will transport you into another world. I first read the book and then followed it up with the audio format and I savored every moment. Hitchcock’s descriptions are rich, highly sensory, and there is just enough magic realism to balance the heavy issues the teens are dealing with: abusive parents, alcoholism, poverty, teen pregnancy, death, and incest. Unflinchingly honest, and yet Hitchcock manages to weave all the loose ends into a comforting (and happy) ending.
What I most loved about TSOPH is that not only are the issues real, but the characters in the book also believable, i.e. regular teenagers who are trying to figure things out, making mistakes, and learning who to trust. Each voice is unique; these are real people and relationships-you can just feel it. The readers for the audio book also kept me captivated with their spot-on performances.
BTW, in the 1980s and 90s I lived and taught in Alaska for sixteen years, north of the Arctic Circle and in both rural and urban schools; I understand what it means to live “outside”.
Note: The Smell of Other People’s Houses has made it my list of all-time favorite Alaskan reads: Snow Child/Eowen Ivey, Flight of the Goose/Lesley Thomas, Ordinary Wolves/Seth Kantner, and Drop City/T.C. Boyle.