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The Blessings

The Blessings

4.5 15
by Elise Juska
     
 

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"Bursting with wise observations."-J. Courtney Sullivan, author of The Engagements and Maine
"Gleams like a jewel."-The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Stunning. . . Unique and unforgettable."-Glamour
Hailed by Stewart O'Nan as "deft and tender" and as one of the best books of

Overview

"Bursting with wise observations."-J. Courtney Sullivan, author of The Engagements and Maine
"Gleams like a jewel."-The Philadelphia Inquirer
"Stunning. . . Unique and unforgettable."-Glamour
Hailed by Stewart O'Nan as "deft and tender" and as one of the best books of 2014 by the Philadelphia Inquirer, Elise Juska's THE BLESSINGS is an extraordinary novel about an ordinary family. The Blessings rally around one another in times of celebration and those of sorrow, coming together for departures and arrivals, while its members harbor private struggles and moments of personal joy. College student Abby ponders homesickness in her first semester away from her Philadelphia home, while her cousin Stephen commits a petty act of violence that takes a surprising turn, and their aunt Lauren faces a crisis in her storybook marriage she could never have foreseen. Through the lens of one unforgettable family, this beautifully moving novel explores how our families define us and how we shape them in return.

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
03/15/2014
This family saga explores the ups and downs of a close-knit extended Irish American clan in Philadelphia over a couple of decades. Like so many people, the Blessings discover that life often doesn't turn out to be what they had hoped. Among their trials are unhappy marriages, divorce, and teenagers who go badly off the rails. Most poignantly, the novel centers on the death of John Blessing, a young husband and father, and the effect this tragedy has on his widow, children, and entire family. In the wrong hands, a family story such as this could be either too sentimental or too much of a soap opera, but we are in good hands with award-winning short story author Juska. She is a shrewd observer of human nature and has an outstanding ability to bring her characters to life on the page. The author's wise decision to focus on a different relative in each chapter also makes the novel stand out. VERDICT 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. [See Prepub Alert, 11/18/13.]—Leslie Patterson, Rehoboth, MA
Publishers Weekly
★ 02/10/2014
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. Juska (One for Sorrow, Two for Joy) traces the trajectory of several family members’ lives over a 15-year period, starting with college student Abby, who comes to understand her family’s supportive and close-knit nature only after leaving for college. The novel goes on to introduce the other Blessings, including Abby’s siblings, Alex and Meghan; her parents, Ann and Dave; and many cousins, aunts, and uncles. The author brings a depth of understanding to the human condition, including in her descriptions of Abby’s cousin Stephen, on the road to becoming a ne’er-do-well; her uncle Patrick, a successful eye doctor, contemplating infidelity; and Meghan coming to terms with her eating disorder. Abby’s grandmother Helen’s dementia is among the more difficult family issues raised. Despite these challenges, the Blessings rally round each other—whether that attention is wanted or not—and the reader leaves feeling lucky to have spent some time in their presence. Agent: Katherine Fausset, Curtis Brown. (May)
From the Publisher
"There's no shortage of novels about the quirks and tragedies of large families, but The Blessings is a uniquely poignant, prismatic look at an Irish-Catholic clan as it rallies after losing one of its own."—Entertainment Weekly"

[A] bighearted novel. . . . Juska's moving, multifaceted portrait of the Blessing family gleams like a jewel."—The Philadelphia Inquirer "

Takes us into the heart of one of Philadelphia's large Irish-Catholic families . . . the storytelling is confident and Juska writes movingly about the emotional life of individuals within a close social unit."—The Toronto Star"

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. . . The author brings a depth of understanding to the human condition, including in her descriptions of Abby's cousin Stephen, on the road to becoming a ne'er-do-well; her uncle Patrick, a successful eye doctor, contemplating infidelity; and Meghan coming to terms with her eating disorder . . . Despite these challenges, the Blessings rally round each other-whether that attention is wanted or not-and the reader leaves feeling lucky to have spent some time in their presence."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)"

Juska explores the collective experiences, traditions and loyalties of a close-knit family . . . a multilayered, sympathetic account of its members' lives."—Kirkus Reviews"

We are in good hands with award-winning short story author Juska. She is a shrewd observer of human nature and has an outstanding ability to bring her characters to life on the page . . . this wonderfully readable work about family life will have you eagerly turning pages."—Library Journal"

With each chapter, Juska takes readers into the life of a different family member, honoring the individuality that blossoms even amid the strong bonds of a family's deep love. She draws intimate and detailed sketches of each of these characters, but the ultimate portrait is of the Blessing family as a whole. 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."—Booklist"

Beautifully crafted. . . Juska draws the characters so fully, with thoughts and feelings so real, the reader can't help but become emotionally invested."—All You "

Juska's emotionally resonant storytelling will remain with you long after turning the last page."—Irish America"

The Blessings are a family so real in all their sorrow, joy and complexity that they could be yours or mine. Juska's portrait of this close-knit clan is bursting with wise observations about the nature of love and belonging. I enjoyed every page."—J. Courtney Sullivan, New York Times-bestselling author of The Engagements and Maine"

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. Elise Juska is deft and tender, letting us get close to her characters in their most vulnerable moments. 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.'"—Stewart O'Nan, author of Songs for the Missing and Emily, Alone"

Elise Juska is so good at describing people, places, and moments that you not only picture them, you feel them."—Curtis Sittenfeld"

In this absorbing novel, Elise Juska moves effortlessly among family members and across decades, covering tragedy and triumph, love and loyalty. I adored everything about this book and raced to finish it, only to turn the last page and long for more time with this large, complicated, close-knit family."—Jennifer Close, author of Girls in White Dresses and The Smart One "

Elise Juska, with a sharp and generous eye, charts the duality of family life in her novel-in-stories, The Blessings. Juska's characters, in their all-too-real efforts at self-discovery, remain home or travel the world, dabble with temptation or stay committed, reveal secrets or keep them; the one constant is their shared blood and history. Each exquisitely layered story builds on top of the other, leaving the reader with a lasting portrait of what it means to be a part of a family in today's fractured world."—Siobhan Fallon, author of You Know When the Men Are Gone

J. Courtney Sullivan
"The Blessings are a family so real in all their sorrow, joy and complexity that they could be yours or mine. Juska's portrait of this close-knit clan is bursting with wise observations about the nature of love and belonging. I enjoyed every page."
Stewart O'Nan
"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. Elise Juska is deft and tender, letting us get close to her characters in their most vulnerable moments. 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.'"
Curtis Sittenfeld
"Elise Juska is so good at describing people, places, and moments that you not only picture them, you feel them."
Siobhan Fallon
"Elise Juska, with a sharp and generous eye, charts the duality of family life in her novel-in-stories, The Blessings. Juska's characters, in their all-too-real efforts at self-discovery, remain home or travel the world, dabble with temptation or stay committed, reveal secrets or keep them; the one constant is their shared blood and history. Each exquisitely layered story builds on top of the other, leaving the reader with a lasting portrait of what it means to be a part of a family in today's fractured world."
Jennifer Close
"In this absorbing novel, Elise Juska moves effortlessly among family members and across decades, covering tragedy and triumph, love and loyalty. I adored everything about this book and raced to finish it, only to turn the last page and long for more time with this large, complicated, close-knit family."
Kirkus Reviews
2014-03-06
Juska explores the collective experiences, traditions and loyalties of a close-knit family and the perspectives of individual members as they journey through a span of 30 years. Like many other middle-class Philadelphia Irish-Catholic clans, the Blessings are tight. They celebrate every holiday in time-honored fashion (men in front of the television or tending the grill; women preparing side dishes and cleaning up), rally together during crises and proudly acknowledge important milestones. It's not surprising, then, that when oldest brother John succumbs to cancer shortly after his father's fatal heart attack, his illness and death become the definitive reference points in the Blessings' lives. Widow Lauren, the mother of two young children, is an only child and relied on John to help her feel comfortable among the Blessings. She faces the death of her husband as many widows do—by withdrawing from others—but as time passes, she helps another family member and becomes an integral part of the clan. Her sister-in-law Kate is married to the youngest Blessing, Patrick, and blames his grief over his brother's death for her initial failure to conceive; later, Patrick evaluates the direction his life has taken. John's sisters cope privately with problems as their children grow older and the family continues to commemorate John's life on the anniversary of his death. Ann and her husband, Dave, become increasingly alienated and finally divorce; their eldest daughter pursues life and love in NYC, their academically gifted son does the unexpected, and their youngest daughter battles an eating disorder. Sister Margie has tried to stifle anxiety over a confession her husband made years ago, but now her eldest son is in trouble, and although she knows taking certain actions will only cause her more pain, she insists that her husband unbury the past and help him. 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. The author (One for Sorrow, Two for Joy, 2007, etc.) has created an ordinary fictitious family and stitched together a multilayered, sympathetic account of its members' lives.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781455574018
Publisher:
Grand Central Publishing
Publication date:
05/06/2014
Sold by:
Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
256
Sales rank:
165,129
File size:
515 KB

Meet the Author

Elise Juska's fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Ploughshares, the Gettysburg Review, the Missouri Review, Good Housekeeping, the Hudson Review, Harvard Review, and many other publications. She is the recipient of the Alice Hoffman Prize for Fiction from Ploughshares and her work has been cited in The Best American Short Stories. She lives in Philadelphia, where she is the director of the undergraduate creative writing program at the University of the Arts.

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