I first heard about Elise Juska's book The Blessings in a women's magazine. I can't even remember which one. It was in one of those "Books You Have to Read This Summer" blurbs. It sounded really interesting, but, after reading it, I have to wonder if the editor who wrote that little blurb even read it. It was touted as a book about a young woman whose husband dies, leaving her with two small children, and how his large family steps in to help her pick up the pieces and fill in the empty places. This book was so much more than that.
The Blessings is a story about family. The Blessing family, actually. Mr. and Mrs. Blessing have four children; Ann, Margie, John and Patrick. They are an Irish-Catholic family and to say they are close is an understatement. John gets cancer and dies, leaving behind his young wife, Lauren and their children, Elena and Max. John's death becomes a pivotal point in the family history, as it is told by different members of the family for the next twenty years. Brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins--they all have a part in telling this story. Each chapter is told by a different person, and never the same person twice.
This is a beautiful story. It could by my family. (Minus the Catholicism and occasional profanity.) It could be your family. It's about the hopes and dreams that we have for our family when we're all young, but how those hopes change when we get older. People change, the develop, they mature, they move away, they come back. Sometimes they do things, make decisions that not everyone agrees with. In the end, though, they are all still family, and that never changes. There is a truth to the saying, "The more things change, the more they stay the same."
The book ends just like it begins, with the Blessing family, all together, talking, eating, loving. Different, but the same. I know these characters. I understand their thoughts and feelings. Life in families isn't always what we expect, but, just like the Blessings, our love for one another is real, and that never changes.
I haven't read any of Elise Juska's other books, but this one was genius. I have never read anything like it. I was hooked from the first page, and I couldn't stop. This is not a Christian book, so it may not appeal to all of my readers, but, if you do read outside of Christian, genres, give this one a try. If you read one book this summer, make it The Blessings.
I was given a copy of this book in exchange for this review. All opinions are my own.