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Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Smiley was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for A Thousand Acres (1991), a novel about a farming family in Iowa. In her fourteenth novel, she returns to that fertile ground to tell the stories of the Langdons, a clan deeply in accord with the land, wherever their quests lead them. A seductive writer in perfect command of every element of language, Smiley sets a ruminative pace embodying the tempo of farm work, season to season. Beginning in 1920 and reaching 1953, this saga of the vicissitudes of luck and our futile efforts to control it is also a richly meteorological novel, exploring how the high and low pressures of the mind can determine a farm's bounty and losses just as droughts and blizzards do. While steadfast Walter worries, his smart, industrious wife, Rosanna, runs the household and cares for their children, beginning with courageous Frankie, followed by animal-lover Joey, romantic Lillian, scholarly Henry, and good Claire. As barbed in her wit as ever, Smiley is also munificently tender. The Langdons endure the Depression, Walter agonizes over giving up his trusty horses for a tractor, and Joe tries the new synthetic fertilizers. Then, as Frank serves in WWII and, covertly, the Cold War, the novel's velocity, intensity, and wonder redouble. Smiley's grand, assured, quietly heroic, and affecting novel is a supremely nuanced portrait of a family spanning three pivotal American decades. HIGH-DEMAND BACKSTORY: With a major print run and extensive national author tour ramping up publicity, ever-popular Smiley's tremendous new novel will be on the top of countless to-read lists. Copyright 2014 Booklist Reviews.

Library Journal Reviews

As Smiley demonstrated in her Pulitzer Prize winner, A Thousand Acres, she can write powerfully about American farm life while illuminating deeper truths. Here, moving from the 1920s to the 1950s, she shows how Iowa farmers Rosanna and Walter Langdon try to pass on their values to their five children. As the children grow up, with some departing for America's coasts, we get a wide-angle view of midcentury America. A featured author at LJ's Day of Dialog.

[Page 56]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Library Journal Reviews

In 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.]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

[Page 79]. (c) Copyright 2014. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

In the first volume of a planned trilogy, Smiley returns to the Iowa of her Pulitzer Prize–winning A Thousand Acres, but in a very different vein. The warring sisters and abusive father of that book have given way to the Langdons, a loving family whose members, like most people, are exceptional only in their human particularities. The story covers the 1920s through the early '50s, years during which the family farm survives the Depression and drought, and the five Langdon children grow up and have to decide whether to stay or leave. Smiley is particularly good at depicting the world from the viewpoint of young children—all five of the Langdons are distinct individuals from their earliest days. The standout is oldest son Frank, born stubborn and with an eye for opportunity, but as Smiley shifts her attention from one character to another, they all come to feel like real and relatable people. The saga of an Iowa farm family might not seem like an exciting premise, but Smiley makes it just that, conjuring a world—time, place, people—and an engaging story that makes readers eager to know what happens next. Smiley plans to extend the tale of the Langdon family well into the 21st century; she's off to a very strong start. (Oct.)

[Page ]. Copyright 2014 PWxyz LLC

Author Biography

Jane Smiley is the author of numerous novels, including A Thousand Acres, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, as well as five works of nonfiction and a series of books for young adults. In 2001 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 2006 she received the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature. She lives in Northern California.
- (Random House, Inc.)


The Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Thousand Acres follows the triumphs and tragedies of a farm family from post-World War I America through the early 1950s. Reading group guide. 75,000 first printing. - (Baker & Taylor)

Follows the triumphs and tragedies of Rosanna and Walter Langdon and their five children on their Iowa farm from 1920 through the early 1950s. - (Baker & Taylor)

"An epic novel that spans thirty years in the lives of a farm family in Iowa, telling a parallel story of the changes taking place in America from 1920 through the early 1950s"--Provided by publisher. - (Baker & Taylor)

Longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award

From the winner of the Pulitzer Prize: a powerful, engrossing new novel—the life and times of a remarkable family over three transformative decades in America. 

On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different children: from Frank, the handsome, willful first born, and Joe, whose love of animals and the land sustains him, to Claire, who earns a special place in her father’s heart.

Each chapter in Some Luck covers a single year, beginning in 1920, as American soldiers like Walter return home from World War I, and going up through the early 1950s, with the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change. As the Langdons branch out from Iowa to both coasts of America, the personal and the historical merge seamlessly: one moment electricity is just beginning to power the farm, and the next a son is volunteering to fight the Nazis; later still, a girl you’d seen growing up now has a little girl of her own, and you discover that your laughter and your admiration for all these lives are mixing with tears.   

Some Luck delivers on everything we look for in a work of fiction. Taking us through cycles of births and deaths, passions and betrayals, among characters we come to know inside and out, it is a tour de force that stands wholly on its own. But it is also the first part of a dazzling epic trilogy—a literary adventure that will span a century in America: an astonishing feat of storytelling by a beloved writer at the height of her powers. - (Random House, Inc.)

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