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Some Luck (The Last Hundred Years Trilogy: A Family Saga) Paperback – July 7, 2015
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“Intimate. . . . Miraculous. . . . Staggering. . . . A masterpiece in the making.” —USA Today
“Ravishing. . . . Reminiscent of the work of Willa Cather and Alice Munro. . . . Captur[es] the arc of personal and historical change in forthright prose that unexpectedly takes flight.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“Moving. . . . Bold. . . . Sweeping. . . . [An] old-fashioned tale of rural family life in changing times.” —The Washington Post
“[Smiley] seemingly writes the way her idol Dickens did—as easily as if it were breathing.” —The New York Times
“Audaciously delicious. . . . Impeccably drawn. . . . Every character here steals our heart. . . . We read these lives, and we find our own.” —Chicago Tribune
“Sweeping. . . . Set[s] the minor catastrophes and victories of the family’s life against a backdrop of historical change.’” —The New Yorker
“The good news? This is the first of a trilogy. The bad news? We have to wait for the next volume.” —Entertainment Weekly (A-)
“Smiley draws a convincing portrait of life on a farm in the early 20th century: the way lives were buffeted by weather, the way the work never ended and how, for kids, there was no such thing as spare time. . . . Smiley gives her trilogy the sweep of history.” —NPR
“Smiley is that rare three-fer: meticulous historian, intelligent humorist and seasoned literary novelist. . . . She makes us see, in the kindest, gentlest way, that we’re a lot more wonderful, and a lot more screwed up—as a nation, as a people, as families, as individuals—than we think we are. . . . . Make[s] the reader count down the days to Book Two.” —Los Angeles Times
“The expansive American epic is Smiley's métier, and she's in top form with this multigenerational story of an Iowa farming family—sturdy sons, passionate daughters, a tough but tender existence—across the first half of the twentieth century.” —Time
“The Langdon family knows growth, diaspora, heartbreak, and passion over three decades. It’s breathtaking to realize that this novel is the first of a trilogy!” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
“Compelling. . . . Drawn with Smiley’s signature specificity and clear-eyed compassion. . . . No writer has ever captured the satisfactions and frustrations of the American farmer with more insight, humor, accuracy and grace than Smiley.” —More
“Unforgettable. . . . What seems simple at first grows profound. . . . You don’t have to have been raised on an Iowa farm to think: That sounds like my grandmother, my aunt, my father, my brother. That sounds like us.” —Miami Herald
“From Pulitzer winner Smiley, a multi-generational saga about an Iowa farming family's shifting fortunes.” —People, “Best Books of the Fall”
“Marvellously evoked. . . . Smiley’s gifts as a storyteller are in full force from the first page.” —Financial Times
“An impressive accounting of family life. . . . With Some Luck and a return to the heartland, the remarkable Smiley just got a little more remarkable.” —Houston Chronicle
“An engaging read populated by sympathetic characters who take what life brings. It’s a look back at what feels like simpler times. . . As always, Smiley is a master of the telling detail.” —The Seattle Times
“Brilliant . . . Smiley is one of America’s most accomplished and wide-ranging novelists. . . . Demonstrates how events on an isolated, unsophisticated farm in the middle of the country represent and influence the larger story of America.” —Dallas Morning News
“Remarkable. . . . Midwestern farm country has proved fertile soil for fiction writers, and no one, perhaps, has cultivated it to such fine effect as Jane Smiley.” —Minneapolis Star Tribune
“What’s unusual about Some Luck is how closely it’s meant to mimic real life, and yet how important Smiley’s gifts as a novelist are to achieving that effect. . . . Smiley’s ability to sketch a scene, to bring to life the quiet incidents as well as the big ones . . . are what transform the family stories into literature.” —Kansas City Star
“A literary triumph. . . . Perfectly, beautifully true to life.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
“Sumptuous . . . A meditation on the things we encounter in our lives that shape our personal histories. . . . Readers will find much enjoyment in her sharp prose and finely observed details.” —Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
“The wonderful first installment of Smiley’s The Last Hundred Years Trilogy, which tells the story of an Iowa farm family from 1920 to 2019. As far as I’m concerned, the next two cannot follow soon enough . . . Beautifully narrated . . . Extremely satisfying.” —Natalie Serber, The Oregonian
“Delightfully engaging, a novel full of pleasures both large and small.” —The Columbus Dispatch
“Satisfying . . . captivating . . . the reading experience is rewarding.” —Bustle
“Engrossing.” —San Jose Mercury News
“Sweeping, bold, and completely engrossing . . . Arguably Smiley’s finest work.” —PopMatters
“[A] tour de force. . . . Wherever Smiley goes in Some Luck, most readers will willingly follow. Then wait, with bated breath, for her next steps.” —BookPage
“A wide-angle view of mid-century America. Told in beautiful, you-are-there language, the narrative lets ordinary events accumulate to give us a significant feel of life at the time. . . . Highly recommended; a lush and grounded reading experience.” —Library Journal (starred review)
“Tremendous . . . Smiley is a seductive writer in perfect command of every element of language. . . . Smiley’s grand, assured, quietly heroic, and affecting novel is a supremely nuanced portrait of a family spanning three pivotal American decades.” —Booklist (starred review)
“Expansive. . . . Engaging. . . . Smiley juggles characters and events with her customary aplomb and storytelling craft.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
About the Author
Jane Smiley is the author of numerous novels, including A Thousand Acres, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, as well as five works of nonfiction and a series of books for young adults. In 2001 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2006 she received the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature. She lives in Northern California.
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Top Customer Reviews
Jane Smiley has written about farms and farmers before and she has not always painted a pretty picture of the lifestyle. When I read her Pulitzer Prize winning novel A Thousand Acres about a family fighting over their inheritances and jockeying for position in the will, 1,000 acres of farmland sounded more like a curse than a blessing. It’s a story that I would sum up as King Lear in flannel.
But in Some Luck that same Jane Smiley, perhaps mellowed by decades of living and writing, gives us the blessings of farm life. It is just a quiet book of the day-to-day struggles of Walter and Rosanna Langdon. Walter bought a farm in Iowa. Rosanna did not look like a farmer’s wife but she was from a long line of farmers and was determined to be a great farmer’s wife. It’s 1920. Farmers keep cows and chickens and have a vegetable garden. They keep horses to pull their plows and drive their buggies and help with the harvest.
Running a farm involves getting the eggs away from the chickens, wringing the occasional chicken neck, canning, plowing, planting, harvesting, collecting seed for next year’s crop, making butter, milking cows, having children, feeding everyone and on, and on and on. Hard to imagine any time to be bored, although winters were probably pretty long and, without central heating, pretty cold.
These two are young, just starting their farm and their family, but Walter knows farming. The years roll by through the Depression, through the Second World War, through the decline of horse-based farming and into the years of tractors and cars. Walter and Rosanna’s fortunes go up and down as we follow them through the years. We get interested in the children and we wonder what kind of adults they will become.
If you like stories full of excitement and tension Some Luck may not hold your interest. Perhaps farming never appealed to you. But, Jane Smiley is a really good writer. Her writing never gets in the way of her story. It doesn’t call attention to itself but it is so skilled that we feel we are watching Walter and Rosanna from next door. It is a love story to farms and farming and farm families, to a way of life that is almost gone from our nation. I was right in the middle of it when it ended. It touched my heart in such a gentle way.
We go through the Depression, WWII, the Korean War and the beginning of the Cold War, which freaks one of the wives out. She thinks Stalin is definitely capable of dropping the bomb at any time.
At first the book reads like a phone book. Rosanna and Walter Langdon start farming in Iowa. Walter had had about enough being treated like a servant on his father's farm. He has a tough time, especially with the weather. In the thirties the crops dried up, and Rosanna had to slaughter half her chickens. She had had a steady income selling eggs and butter at the local grocery store. Walter is down to two cows at one time, but it finally starts to rain and they make it. Meanwhile they have a bunch of kids, one whom Roseanna delivers herself when he shows up early.
The book finally comes alive when Frankie is born, their oldest son. He is a live wire and could care less what anybody else expects of him. He's also good looking and smart. Rosanna and Walter invest in Frankie by sending him to high school in Chicago, with Eloise, Roseanna's Communist sister. Eventually he attends Iowa State where he meets a spoiled rich kid Lawrence. They're ying to the other's yang. Without Lawrence Frankie would not have met Hildy, who would eventually become his wife. But Frankie joins the army two quarters shy of earning his degree. Turns out Frankie is a dead shot and passes all the tests required of a sniper. He fights in Africa against Rommel, Sicily, at Anzio, and Monte Cassino, before being transferred to Southern France. He's especially nonplussed when Eisenhower stops the American advance at the Rhine, allowing Stalin to take Berlin. Frankie also meets Rubin, who will be an important acquaintance later in life. Rubin is the Milo Minderbender (Catch-22) of SOME LUCK. He's constantly collecting valuables to sell when the war is over.
Frankie never finishes college, for some reason, but he is hired by OSS operative Arthur, his little sister's husband to go over Nazi papers, especially those about advanced German weaponry. Arthur can also read people, and Frankie is the kind of person who can sell ice cream to an Eskimo. Arthur uses him as an unpaid spy, ferreting out Communists. Arthur now works for the FBI and the despised Herbert Hoover. Frankie bumps into Hildie again, only now she calls herself Andie, which sounds more like the fashion designer she's now become. They get married. Andie's uncle dies, leaving her some money. And along comes Rubin, real name Rubino, who is now a real estate investor. Frankie makes a killing.
Walter and Rosanna pop in and out of the story as do Joey, Frankie's farmer brother who has a special knack for the job, especially hybrid corn. There are also children of children, and they grow up in a hurry, with stories of their own. Then the story comes to a screeching halt, mainly because this is the first in a series. The book is no A THOUSAND ACRES. If you'll remember that was about a modern version of KING LEAR set in Iowa farm country. It won the Pulitzer. If you care about Frankie and the gang, you might want to get synopses of the other books in the series.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Even though it was natural that the children became the focus of the novel, I felt that the novel went downhill...Read more