BookBrowse Reviews The Blessings by Elise Juska

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The Blessings

By Elise Juska

The Blessings
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  • Hardcover: May 2014,
    272 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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The joys and trials of a close-knit Irish Catholic family illuminate the many facets of the ties that bind.

In the opening chapter of Elise Juska's The Blessings, college freshman Abby has returned to Philadelphia to spend Christmas with her large extended Irish-Catholic family, her first time coming home for the holidays. Like many college students, she surprises herself by already feeling somewhat distanced from family traditions, an observer rather than merely an unthinking participant. Near the end of the chapter, as Abby gathers her things to drive back to Boston for a New Year's party with friends, her aunt Margie pulls her aside and says to her niece, "It's a good moment...when everyone is okay." Margie's observation can be read as an affirmation of the Blessing family's good fortune, a restating of their joyful holiday celebrations. But it can also, of course, be read as foreboding, an acknowledgment that happiness, even just "okay-ness," is temporary at best.

The transitory nature...

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