The Blessings


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 as one of the best books of 2014 by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Elise Juska’s The Blessings is a moving novel about a tight-knit Irish Catholic clan over the course of twenty years.

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.


  • "#1 . . . A stunning wide-angle snapshot of the Blessing family of Northeast Philadelphia. . . They could be any family-and yet, in Juska's capable hands, they're unique and unforgettable."
    Glamour, "The 10 Best Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List Right This Second"
  • "[A] bighearted novel. . . . Juska's moving, multifaceted portrait of the Blessing family gleams like a jewel."
    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
  • "I loved this book. . . . At its core, "The Blessings" is ultimately about family: the people you are tied to by blood and birth, the people you celebrate your victories with and who support you during times of sorrow, the people who will always be there for you no matter what. This is a beautifully complex and thoughtful novel that is perfect for summer reading, whether you're on the beach or lying in a hammock."
    The Times Leader
  • "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
  • "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)
  • "Fans of writers like Anne Tyler, Alice McDermott and even Richard Yates will revel in Juska's resplendent novel detailing two decades in the life of the Blessing clan."
  • "With a keen eye for detail and character, Juska shows us that, Tolstoy notwithstanding, a happy family can be happy in its own way and make for great storytelling... An exquisite portrait of a large family."
    Shelf Awareness
  • "Throughout the novel, right up until the affecting final scene, Juska explores the paradox of family-how it is the thing that both stifles and sustains you, how it can be simultaneously predictable and unexpected, stable and fragile... the result is the best kind of family portrait-one in which you know each member's foibles and flaws and yet love them anyway."
    BookBrowse, Editor's Choice
  • "It takes a writer with voice and depth to tell the story of a large Irish Catholic family's travails and make it feel fresh. Elise Juska succeeds with this novel set in Northeast Philly."
    Philadelphia Magazine
  • "Juska explores the collective experiences, traditions and loyalties of a close-knit family . . . a multilayered, sympathetic account of its members' lives."
    Kirkus Reviews
  • "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."
  • "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
  • "Juska's emotionally resonant storytelling will stay with you long after turning the last page."
    Irish America
  • "It is the ordinary details that define the Blessings. The pickles wrapped in ham, well-worn seats in front of the TV, Mass at St. Bonaventure's and casserole dishes provide a predictable backdrop to the unexpected-making the unexpected that much sharper."
    Portland Press Herald
  • "This family can feel so real, the prose almost aches."
    Philadelphia City Paper
  • "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
  • "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
  • "Elise Juska is so good at describing people, places, and moments that you not only picture them, you feel them."
    Curtis Sittenfeld

On Sale
May 26, 2015
Page Count
288 pages

Elise Juska

About the Author

Elise Juska‘s fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Ploughshares, Gettysburg Review, The Missouri Review, Good Housekeeping, The Hudson 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.

Learn more about this author