Summary and book reviews of The Blessings by Elise Juska

The Blessings

by Elise Juska

The Blessings
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    May 2014, 272 pages
    Paperback:
    May 2015, 272 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

Buy This Book

About this Book

Book Summary

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.

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.

Excerpt
The Blessings

If every family has a certain kind of music, Abby's is the murmur of sympathy around a dining room table. It starts in the pause after dinner and before dessert, when the men migrate to the living room and turn on sports and the women surround the wreckage, spilled crumbs and crumpled napkins and stained wineglasses. They pinch lids from sugar bowls and dip teabags in hot water, break cookies in half and chew slowly. They trade stories of other people's hardships. This is the melody, the measure, of her family: the response to sad things.

"Fifty-six years old," her mother is saying.

This story is one Abby already knows. One of their neighbors, Mr. Whelan, collapsed and died the day before Christmas Eve. A stroke. Fifty-six. Two sons in college. Terrible. They shake their heads. A shame.

Abby arranges her face into a sympathetic expression, but she is thinking about Eric Winn. Mara had heard that he might be in Boston tomorrow, at the party. ...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Throughout the novel, right up until the affecting final scene, Juska explores the paradox of family—how it is the thing that both stifles and sustains you, how it can be simultaneously predictable and unexpected, stable and fragile.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Full Review Members Only (497 words).

Media Reviews

Library Journal

This wonderfully readable work about family life will have you eagerly turning pages to find out what happens to characters about whom you really care.

Kirkus Reviews

Juska's story is like leafing through an old family photo album, where typically unremarkable moments are captured in black and white. What makes the album unique isn't its contents but the way each photo abuts or overlays the next.

Booklist

This heartfelt tribute to the ups and downs of a large, devoted family is warm, uplifting, and recommended for readers from families of all sizes.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Several generations of the Blessings, a Philadelphia-based, Irish-American family, come beautifully to life in a deceptively simple tale that examines the foibles, disappointments and passions that tie family members together.

Author Blurb J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times-bestselling author of The Engagements and Maine
Juska's story is like leafing through an old family photo album, where typically unremarkable moments are captured in black and white. What makes the album unique isn't its contents but the way each photo abuts or overlays the next.

Author Blurb Stewart O'Nan, author of Songs for the Missing and Emily, Alone
In the tradition of Elizabeth Berg's and Alice McDermott's work, The Blessings is a knowing portrait of a sprawling Irish-American family in Philly across the last thirty years, in all their shared strength and separate weaknesses...the ties that bind are never simple, and often painful, but as one daughter acknowledges, 'these are the hidden intimacies, the private exchanges, on which she builds her life.'

Reader Reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Beyond the Book

Multi-generational Portraits of Family

The Blessings is a novel, but it's also a portrait —an ensemble in which assorted members of three generations reveal various complexities and challenges. Here is a handful of other books that also offer multi-generational stories about family.

Charming Billy Charming Billy by Alice McDermott won the National Book Award in 1998. It opens at the funeral of Billy Lynch, a working-class Irishman and hopeless drunk. The story of Billy's life and death is revealed slowly, through the lives of the friends and families who knew him best. Narrated by Billy's cousin Dennis's daughter, who professes detachment but gradually becomes emotionally involved, McDermott's masterpiece is a complex portrayal of an individual and family's ambiguities.


The End of the Point The End...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Readalikes Full readalike results are for members only

If you liked The Blessings, try these:

  • The Lives of Others jacket

    The Lives of Others

    by Neel Mukherjee

    Published 2015

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Ambitious, rich, and compassionate, The Lives of Others is a novel of unflinching power and emotional force which anatomizes the soul of a nation as it unfolds a family's history.

  • Instructions for a Heatwave jacket

    Instructions for a Heatwave

    by Maggie O'Farrell

    Published 2014

    More about this book

    Read Reviews

    Sophisticated, intelligent, impossible to put down, Maggie O'Farrell's beguiling novels blend richly textured psychological drama with page-turning suspense. Instructions for a Heatwave finds her at the top of her game, with a novel about a family crisis set during the legendary British heatwave of 1976.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member


Search Readalikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!
Member Benefits

Join Now!

Check the advantages!
Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year

    •  
    • FREE
    • MEMBER
    • Range of media reviews for each book
    • Excerpts of all featured books
    • Author bios, interviews and pronunciations
    • Browse by genre
    • Book club discussions
    • Book club advice and reading guides
    • BookBrowse reviews and "beyond the book" back-stories
    •  
    • Reviews of notable books ahead of publication
    •  
    • Free books to read and review (US Only)
    •  
    • Browse for the best books by time period, setting & theme
    •  
    • Read-alike suggestions for thousands of books and authors
    •  
    • 'My Reading List" to keep track of your books
    •  

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: A Certain Age
    A Certain Age
    by Beatriz Williams
    Lovers of high-society gossip, there's a new set of players in town. A good 20 out of 23 of our...
  • Book Jacket: The Romanovs
    The Romanovs
    by Simon Sebag Montefiore
    The Romanovs chronicles the reigns of the 20 individuals who were considered members of that dynasty...
  • Book Jacket: Barkskins
    Barkskins
    by Annie Proulx
    Barkskins, by Annie Proulx, is not a book to read quickly. After a month of slow reading, I ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Miss Jane
    by Brad Watson

    "Starred Review. Sensitive, beautifully precise prose. Highly recommended." - PW

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The Secret Language of Stones
    by M. J. Rose

    "A fantastic historical tale of war, love, loss and intrigue."
    – Melanie Benjamin

    Read Member Reviews

Members review books pre-publication. Read their opinions in First Impressions

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Girl Waits with Gun
by Amy Stewart

An enthralling novel based on the forgotten true adventures of one of the nation's first female deputy sheriffs.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Summer Stunner
Summer Giveaway

Win 5 books, each week in July!

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

W M T N, W C F All

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

BookBrowse Summer Giveaway

We're giving away
5 books every
week in July!