by Jane Smiley
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing
On Ocober 7th, 2014
Genre: Fiction, Literary
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For a couple of years while growing up we lived on my grandparents farm in Tennessee. I learned early on what makes a successful farm: a ton of hard work, dedication and some luck!
Set in the Midwest town of Denby, Iowa, Walter Langdon marries the prettiest girl in town, Rosanna, and sets up home and farm just outside of town. Soon the babies start coming; first Frank then Joe, Lillian, Henry and finally Claire. Covering 1920 – 1953, each chapter represents one year and we get a brief peek inside the lives of the Langdon family. Frank makes his own way, is headstrong and stubborn yet also brilliant. Joe is considered the ‘whiner’ and yet his particular gift of stewing over an issue brings him and his family success; Lillian is the angel, naive and beautiful; Henry has no interest in farming and somehow escapes much of the farm life work ~ he reads, and reads and reads; Claire is her daddy’s heart – is it because Walter has the time later in life to focus on Claire or is it because Rosanna seemed to have a bit of postpartum blues or a combination?
I must admit that I have mixed feelings about Some Luck ~ Is it a sweeping family saga or a book without a plot? I think it is one of those that you either hate it or you need a few days to think it over and find that months after the fact you’re still pondering the Langdon family. That’s where Jane Smiley has created a brilliant novel ~ it gradually gets under your skin and you find yourself thinking about the Langdon’s long after the book is closed.
Some Luck mirrors life ~ there’s a few big things that happen but mostly we get by in the everyday-ness of life.
Why I picked up Some Luck
I picked this one up because I’ve got Early Warning on my queue to review, and I wanted to start from the beginning in Smiley’s trilogy about the Langdon family.
What I would have liked better
There are a LOT of characters by the end of Some Luck and though Smiley includes a family tree at the beginning, I found myself having to look back quite a bit. Before I start Early Warning I am going to print out the family tree! Not every chapter includes each of the children or their friends and then subsequent spouses. Since I had to read this one over a couple of weeks rather than all in a couple of sittings, it took me longer to get reacquainted with who was who.
Please give me more
Henry! It seemed to me that Frank ended up as the accidental protagonist, but it was Henry that I was drawn to.
Interesting to Note
The discussion questions in the back of the novel really got me thinking about how so much about each character and the time period is revealed through atypical means. For example, Walter resists getting a tractor for the longest time (times were changing, farming was evolving) and Frank’s character flaws are shown through Joe’s behavior (Frank is not a very nice brother toward Joe). If you read this one be sure to check out the discussion questions ~ reading through those alone will reveal the brilliance of this author.
What book have you read recently that kept you thinking about the characters long after the last page was over?