Thursday, July 23, 2015


I haven't been this enthralled by a book in a while.  I have never read Jane Smiley, because despite her numerous and impressive accolades, I just never thought I would get into a book (much less a 380+ paged book) about a family and a farm in Iowa.  Then last evening, kind of on a whim, I finally picked up Smiley's "A Thousand Acres," a book that garnered her a National Book Critics Circle Award in 1991 and a Pulitzer in 1992. 

For about four hours, I reached that perfect and very elusive state where I could not put the book down.  Numerous times I just nodded and said OK to whatever Michael was saying to me.  He would ask me a question and after a few seconds, I would realize he was talking to me and briefly raise my head and mutter, "What?"  Finally at 1 AM I was forced to put the book down and go to bed.  I fully intend to finish it today.

The characters are so real.  The writing is so lucid, powerful, beautiful.  The characters come so fully formed off the page, you feel like you are right there with them, watching the tractors criss-crossing the field, fending off the mercurial wrath of the father, planting the tomatoes.  The book, set against the broad sweeping space of the Iowa plains, beautifully mixes the dramatic with the mundane, with a tightly paced, tense plot that just keeps marching inexorably forward toward a damning, explosive finish. 

Wow, it is so good.  A reviewer called it "Book of a Lifetime" and I must say, I agree.  Good job Jane.

Update: As I have been reading rather voraciously of late, here is what I plan to read this summer.  All of them get at least 4 stars or more on amazon, have won a prize, or else generally received some good press.  That said, I am pretty unabashed to drop a book if I don't like it… so I may not end up reading all of these.  I am still undecided if I want to try Jane Smiley's "The Last Hundred Years" trilogy… what if it's really disappointing?

Karen White: The Time Between
Beatriz Williams: A Hundred Summers
Elin Hilderbrand: The Rumor
Christine Kline: Orphan Train
Kristin Hannah: Nightingale
Jessica Knoll: Luckiest Girl Alive
Herman Koch: The Dinner
Aziz Ansari: Modern Romance
Lily King: Euphoria
Marie Kondo: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Kent Haruf: Plainsong
Barbara Demick: Nothing to Envy

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