Summary and book reviews of The Blessings by Elise Juska

The Blessings

by Elise Juska

The Blessings by Elise Juska X
The Blessings by Elise Juska
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

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

    Genres

  • 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" articles
  • 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 $12 for 3 months or $39 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...continued

Full Review (497 words).

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.

(Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

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" articles
  • 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 $12 for 3 months or $39 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...

This "beyond the book" feature is available to non-members for a limited time. Join today for full access.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Readalikes

Read-alikes Full readalike results are for members only

More books by Elise Juska

If you liked The Blessings, try these:

  • The Immortalists jacket

    The Immortalists

    by Chloe Benjamin

    Published 2019

    About this book

    More by this author

    A dazzling family love story reminiscent of Everything I Never Told You from a novelist heralded by Lorrie Moore as a "great new talent."

  • This Must Be the Place jacket

    This Must Be the Place

    by Maggie O'Farrell

    Published 2017

    About this book

    More by this author

    A dazzling novel from bestselling writer Maggie O'Farrell, winner of the Costa Novel Award—an irresistible love story that crisscrosses continents and time zones as it captures an extraordinary marriage, and an unforgettable family, with wit, humor, and deep affection.

Non-members are limited to two results. Become a member
Search read-alikes again
How we choose readalikes
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • 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 $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more


Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Seek You
    Seek You
    by Kristen Radtke
    In the first pages of Seek You: A Journey Through American Loneliness, Kristen Radtke's sophomore ...
  • Book Jacket: The Man Who Hated Women
    The Man Who Hated Women
    by Amy Sohn
    If debates over women's reproductive health seem stuck in an earlier era — the fact that birth...
  • Book Jacket: The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
    The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois
    by Honorée Fannone Jeffers
    Honorée Fannone Jeffers' The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois explores the Black experience in ...
  • Book Jacket: Beautiful World, Where Are You
    Beautiful World, Where Are You
    by Sally Rooney
    Beautiful World, Where Are You centers around four key characters, the most prominent of which are ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
In Every Mirror She's Black
by Lola Akinmade Akerstrom
An arresting debut for anyone looking for insight into what it means to be a Black woman in the world.

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Last Chance Library
    by Freya Sampson

    Fans of libraries and heartfelt, humorous fiction won't want to miss this one!

  • Book Jacket

    The Lost Notebook of Edouard Manet
    by Maureen Gibbon

    A sensual portrait of Manet's last years, and a vibrant testament of the artistic spirit.

Win This Book!
Win A Most Clever Girl

A Most Clever Girl by Stephanie Marie Thornton

A thrilling novel of love and espionage, based on the incredible true story of a Cold War double agent.

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

Run T G

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 the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.