When John Blessing dies, leaving 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 Philly neighborhood. Through departures and arrivals, weddings and reunions, The Blessings reveals the struggles beneath the surface of a close-knit Irish-Catholic family and the rituals that unite them.
For any reader who has embraced Elizabeth Strout’s Burgess family or J. Courtney Sullivan’s Kellehers of Maine, this is a moving and beautiful novel about how our families define us and how we shape them in return.
Elise Juska is so good at describing people, places, and moments that you not only picture them, you feel them.
—Curtis Sittenfeld, author of Sisterland and American Wife
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
For two quietly unhappy years, linguist Claire Gallagher has been living deep in the New Hampshire woods, enduring a polite but strained marriage to a highly respected scientist. Once a determined overachiever and academic star in her own right, she now spends her days avoiding her stalled dissertation and creating EZ crossword puzzles. But for all Claire's knowledge of words and their meanings, the meaning in her own life eludes her. One bleak morning in winter, she announces that she's leaving.
By nightfall, at the urging of her younger sister Noelle, Claire finds herself heading to Ireland, the birthplace of her chronically ill mother and the country Noelle, a college dropout, now calls home. In a small town on the Irish coast, Claire's struggle to move ahead with her life takes her deep into the puzzles of her past, in a world in which there are no simple answers, and the only questions that matter are those of the heart.
Elise Juska has written a wry, wise and heartfelt novel about the ways in which we grieve. Her characters are rich with the kind of complications that make a novel sing. Juska's passion for language, and for the ways in which it tries, and sometimes fails, to represent who we are, give this lovely book a resonance that crosses not only family lines, but geographical borders, too.
— Marisa Silver, author of Mary Coin and The God of War
Clear-eyed and unsentimental, Juska has created a welcome, refreshing novel that upends stereotypes and eschews cliches... Juska's delicate touch and note-perfect writing allow her to gather the threads of the shrewdly observed details and weave them around her vivid characters, making One for Sorrow, Two for Joy a memorable, rewarding pleasure. —The Philadelphia Inquirer
With her free-spirited daughter away at college and her "hip" ex-husband living across the country, Charlotte has grown used to being alone. For the most part, she prefers it. But at night, no matter how hard she tries (and in spite of the Dream Machine her daughter Emily sent her) she can't stop her logical mind from running wild—imagining burglars, strange noises, and all manner of trouble that might befall her fearless daughter.
Having just graduated from Wesleyan with a pierced tongue and an arsenal of opinions, Emily has always been passionate about her beliefs—from mindfulness to vegetarianism to her new live-in boyfriend. Though Charlotte rarely understands her, she's learned to keep her doubts to herself. But when Emily and the new boyfriend arrive for a weekend visit, secrets are revealed that compel Charlotte to take a stand. Forced to examine her own life choices, she's about to learn she can't control everything. What she can do is open her heart to new possibilities, and to the fact that headstrong Emily might have a thing or two to teach them all.
In this poignant and often funny novel, Elise Juska does the work of an archaeologist; she digs deep to uncover subterranean truths about loneliness, the mysteries of human connection and the delicate push-pull of mother-daughter relationships. She excavates, she reveals, and she gets it exactly right.
—Carolyn Parkhurst, bestselling author of The Dogs of Babel
Anyone who has awakened in the night alone and afraid will rejoice at Charlotte's transformation... Juska paints an accurate picture of life's pitfalls and heartaches.
Eliza is looking to date a rock star—though she uses the term loosely. None of her boyfriends have been famous. Most have unbearable habits and overbearing mothers. A few only played show tunes. Still, they're intense. Pierced. Tragically stubbled. With a predilection for dressing in black. Eliza finds them deep—in theory, anyway. But in reality, none comes close to the object of her original rock-star crush: actor/crooner Jack Wagner. When her latest catch turns out to be another mama's boy, Eliza begins to realize love is nothing like her favorite '80s song.
Critic's Choice — People Magazine
A fine, smart, funny newcomer brings a touch of High Fidelity, a high pop-cultural IQ, and a refreshing emotional take to her debut outing... [C]lever structure, swift pacing, emotional insight, and an ultimately charming voice make this one a standout.
— Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review
Juska's voice—fresh, clever, and sometimes hilarious—pulls you through swiftly to a refreshingly atypical ending.
— Philadelphia Magazine