SOME LUCK, by Jane Smiley, is part one of a trilogy. It’s the hundred year trilogy. I am of the understanding that all three books will be published this year. I sure hope so.
Smiley got my attention years ago with A THOUSAND ACRES. Then I saw the movie adaptation; a real wow. Well, Smiley is back in her stomping grounds; out in Iowa. This time we are in the midst of the great depression. Beginning in the 1920’s and spanning thirty years, we follow Walter Langdon and his family as they struggle through the years.
My initial take on this story was to question the voices used in the beginning. I still am not sure how I feel about hearing a story told mostly through the voices of babies and small children. However, that is only initially. And, it actually works.
Walter Langdon is twenty-five when SOME LUCK begins. The year is 1920. He’s looking over the fields of his farm and contemplating. Little does he know how much the country will be changing. What he does know is that he is the only man his age who owns his own farm. He thinks of his wife, Rosanna, blonde and beautiful, with a German background. And then we meet Frank, aged five months, who is sitting up on a blanket on the porch. And we begin to hear all of Frank’s thoughts. It sets us up for the future.
Smiley sure does know farm life. She is able to show how harsh a life it is. Some years there is barely enough rain to bring water to the pump. Other years there is war that takes loved ones away. And all along the way there is angst of every sort. We discover that most of the offspring of farmers do not want to stay and work the land like their parents. Life is just too darn hard. They ache to fly the coop.
SOME LUCK, takes us all over the world. We travel with Frank as he joins the war effort and discovers other worlds.
Even though there are other children born to Walter and Rosanna, Frank becomes larger than life. Even when I did not want to like him, I found myself eager to follow him down the road. Henry is sensitive and spends every minute he can reading the classics. Joe is steadfast and a homebody. And the girls are rebels. One thing I loved about this novel is that all the characters become dear. Smiley has totally fleshed them all out. I can’t wait to follow them though the next two books.
My review copy arrived in the mail from Alfred A. Knopf publishers. Thanks so much!