Friday, November 14, 2014

Some Luck by Jame Smiley

Jane Smiley’s newest novel is the first in The Last Hundred Years trilogy.  The Pulitzer prize winning author intends to cover 100 years in the life of an Iowa farm family and the first novel, Some Luck, covers the years 1920-1953.  Smiley follows the Langdon family of Denby, Iowa through childbirth, death, the Great Depression and World War II in a unique fashion.  Not only does the author write from many of the different characters points of view, but each chapter itself represents one year. 

We begin with Walter, the 25 year-old father and owner of the farm.  His wife Rosanna is about to give birth to their first child, Frank, and he is ruminating on all of the things that farmers think about: which crops to plant this year, how many animals are there to take care of and can I really afford to farm all of this land? As the years move forward, Smiley introduces us to all of the Langdon children: Frank, Joe, Mary Elizabeth, Lillian, Henry and Claire and their unique personalities.  We see Walter struggle with changing technologies (horses vs. tractors) and Rosanna has her own challenges with loss and religion. 

Each of the Langdon children is different than the last, and we hear a lot from the point of view of Frank, the handsomest and, arguably, the most cunning Langdon child.  When the US gets involved in World War II, he joins the army and becomes a sniper while his sensitive younger brother Joe stays home on a II-A deferment and takes care of the family farm.  Lillian falls in love with a handsome stranger and Henry devours books as fast as he can get his hands on them.  The reader is quickly absorbed into the world that Smiley creates and is soon laughing and crying along with the family. 

Some Luck has been shortlisted for the National Book Award and is a profound family saga.