Book Review: The Blessings

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The Blessings by Elise Juska, was a book I picked up just as the Easter weekend was beginning. I can’t think now of a more perfect book to read about family than this one. It was easily readable over the holiday weekend. Thank you to Netgalley for allowing us the opportunity to read this quiet gem of a book.

At the same time as I was reading The Blessings, I was listening to Shotgun Lovesongs I was quite struck by how both books seemed to share this underlying theme of the “calling of home” or of the importance or draw that “home” can hold over a person. Each chapter in The Blessings is told from a perspective of a different character in the Blessing family. Therefore, in a way, they amost read like a collection of linked short stories. The main thread that ties their stories together is first the death of the patriarch of the family, and then the news of a cancer diagnosis, and death of John Blessing: the uncle, the father, the husband, the brother and the son in the Blessing family.

Each person shares their story, starting with John’s niece, Abby, who has gone away to attend college. She shares how she is trying to live her life outside of this big, unruly family she is so used to being a part of. It then spirals out to the others, including his young widow, Lauren, to explain this connection they each have to John, and how his death has affected them, be it through very direct and sometimes in distant or indirect ways. At the heart of each of their stories is the Blessing family however – this large, tight-knit, Irish Catholic family – that they all come back to and share their joys, pain and sorrows, problems and love with.

The Blessings is a quiet, quaint yet beautifully descriptive tale of family. It is one that can be easily enjoyed over a weekend. Nestle into your favourite reading space and share in the Blessings’ lives and the great love they have for one another.

Synopsis: When John Blessing dies and leaves behind two small children, the loss reverberates across his extended family for years to come. His young widow, Lauren, finds solace in her large clan of in-laws, while his brother’s wife Kate pursues motherhood even at the expense of her marriage. John’s teenage nephew Stephen finds himself involved in an act of petty theft that takes a surprising turn, and nephew Alex, a gifted student, travels to Spain and considers the world beyond his family’s Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood. Through departures and arrivals, weddings and reunions, THE BLESSINGS reveals the interior worlds of the members of a close-knit Irish-Catholic family and the rituals that unite them.


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