Friday, February 24, 2017

March 2017: The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

March Book Meeting
March 9th 2017
7:30 pm with discussion starting at 8pm
Melissa's House

Discussion Questions:

1. Did you enjoy the book? why or why not?

2. Does a particular smell remind you of a certain place? a certain time? or person? Do we often connect smells and memories?

3. Alyce compares the Tongass rain forest along the coast where she and her father fish to the skinny black spruce forest that defines her home in Fairbanks. She says, "Same state, two climates, each as different as my parents; and like my parents, there's a part of me in both" (page 52). As you think about the adults in your life, what elements of them do you see in yourself? How did they become a part of your identity? Do you welcome these traits?

4. When talking to the older woman who sees Sam jump overboard from the ferry, Hank describes the scene as follows: "I am inches from her face. She says nothing and I grab her by the shoulders, gently shaking her into focus. It's like holding onto a cobweb" (page 67). Think a bit more about this simile. Why do you think the author chooses this image to describe the woman? What alternate comparison might you make?

5. What is the significance of the red strip of fabric that Dumpling wears in her hair? Where did it come from? Why does she wear it? Where does it go? Why might the author have chosen to use this particular symbol as a thread that runs through the novel?

6. Consider how Selma and Dora might work as oppositional characters in the story. How would you describe Selma's outlook on the world? How about Dora's? Do their perspectives shift over the course of the novel? Which of these two characters do you think might be the better friend for you?

7. The novel is inhabited by characters with secrets who live in a community that expects members to keep their private business private. Select one character who is silenced as a result of this expectation. How is he or she affected by the insular nature of this place? How does this norm affect the larger community, particularly given the fact that many know the truth anyway?

8. When Ruth tells her grandmother that she named the baby after her in hopes of having a sort of "do-over," her grandmother claims, "I don't deserve that"(page 222). Do you agree? Why or why not? Do you agree with Ruth's decision?

9.Characters in this novel regularly define themselves and others by their socio-economic
status—by the kind of boots they can afford, the kinds of homes in which they live,
the foods they serve at the dinner table, etc. How does money (or a lack thereof ) play
a role in the development of the characters in the novel and influence the strengths
they possess and the struggles they face? Does money matter?

10.Think about the organizational structure of the novel. Why might the author have
decided that our introduction to the story should begin with a prologue written from
Ruth’s point of view (rather than that of a different character)? Why might the author
have presented the seasonal sections (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter) in the order
she does? What connections can you draw, or what disconnects can you see, between
how you conceive of each season and the events that take place within it?

11. Would you recommend this book? Why or why not?
Alaskan appetizer
Fish dish
Tuna Casserole
Chicken dumplings
Dessert: Apple Pie
              Blueberry Pie
              Canned Peaches (with ice-cream if desired:)
Melissa will provide you with drinks!


  1. I'll bring canned peaches and ice cream/whip cream!

  2. And I'll bring Crispy Garlic Butter Parmesan Smashed Potatoes (Alaskan appetizer according to Pinterest)

  3. Divine Deviled Eggs... Also alaskan appetizer... though i'm a bit skeptical they originated there....

  4. I'm coming and I'll see what I can do about making something fishy.


Tell us what you think!