Grab a cup of coffee or a pot of tea, and a few biscotti and prepare to meet the Blessings family. Author, Elise Juska has written, THE BLESSINGS: A NOVEL set to be published May 6th and a perfect read for the upcoming spring and summer. The novel is a wonderful portrait of a large tight-knit Northeast Philadelphia American Irish Catholic family, going through all the joys and sorrows that make up a family over a couple of decades. Prepare to sit down, open page one and keep reading until the end.

First things first: an Irish Catholic family usually means parents, lots of kids, aunts, uncles, cousins and The Blessings aren’t any different. I applaud author, Elise Juska for taking on such an ambitious project. There are a lot of characters. When I started reading, I made up my mind to pay extra attention to all of the characters and I suggest readers do the same. Each individual chapter introduces another character, so that helps one keep up with the numerous characters. Maybe you won’t have a problem. Perhaps it was just my experience.

As each chapter opens, a new character begins narrating the storyline from their perspective, while revealing and explaining plot points. This is how the novel steadily moves along and the characters are flushed out. There’s a devastating loss at the beginning of the novel and several crisis throughout, but life moves on and it’s a beautiful story of a family grieving both separately and together. Reading THE BLESSINGS: A NOVEL is similar to leafing through a family photo album. They turn to one another when Kate and Patrick face infertility issues and the family rallies around Meghan when it becomes known she has bulimia. Successful eye doctor, Patrick personally wrestles with some demons that come out of the blue, but he works them out. Cousin Alex has bigger dreams beyond Northeast Philly, while 27-year old cousin Stephen is unable to get his act together. After finishing the novel, I realized that the Blessings actually get along rather well, unlike many novels in which a great deal of sensational drama is created to make up for one-dimensional characters lacking richness. Elise is gifted in writing complex characters that live in the real world and face challenges on a daily basis.

She has written three previous novels ONE for SORROW, TWO for JOY, THE HAZARDS of SLEEPING ALONE and GETTING OVER JACK WAGNER.

Elise Juska currently is the Director of the Undergraduate creative writing program, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA
She is the Winner Alice Hoffman Price for Fiction and has been Nominated for a Pushcart Prize

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