Some Luck

Knopf. Oct. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9781594486005. $26.95. ebk. ISBN 9780385350396. F
OrangeReviewStarIn her new work, the Pulitzer Prize-winning Smiley (A Thousand Acres) moves from the 1920s to the 1950s as she unfolds the life of Iowa farmers Rosanna and Walter Langdon and their five children: brilliant, mercurial Frank; animal-loving Joe, the real farmer of the bunch; sweet Lillian, who enters into a happy marriage that has repercussions for the rest of her family; iconoclastic, bookish Henry; and baby Claire. As the children grow up and sometimes move away, we get a wide-angle view of mid-century America; a cousin's experiences with radicals in Chicago and San Francisco also take us beyond the hardscrabble life of the farm, as does the advent of World War II, which leads to Frank's enlistment and eventually to Cold War rumblings. Told in beautiful, you-are-there language, the narrative lets ordinary events accumulate to give us a significant feel of life at the time, with the importance and dangers of farming particularly well portrayed. In the end, though, this is the story of parents and children, of hope and disappointment, with Frank's prickly and uncomfortable story the fulcrum.
VERDICT Highly recommended; a lush and grounded reading experience. [See Prepub Alert, 4/7/14.]
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