Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Review: Some Luck

Some Luck
By Jane Smiley
Knopf October 2014
395 pages
From the library

Some Luck

Walter and Rosanna Langdon are at the beginning of their lives together in 1920. They have a promising farm and have just had their first child. Some Luck looks at the Langdon family year by year, jumping from perspective to perspective as Walter worries about his crops, Rosanna watches her children grow, and those children learn about the world around them and about the people they want to become. 

Some Luck is the first of a trilogy that will span 100 years and many generations of the Langdon family. In this book, we are witnesses to the years between 1920 and 1953. Huge historical events are juxtaposed with the repetition of everyday life. The family goes to a giant tent revival, but their Sunday best had to be washed and pressed the day before. Children go off to war, but the family farm must still be maintained. The true beauty in this book is the coexistence of the mundane and the magnificent, the everyday and the earth-shattering.

"Normally, Rosanna took credit for everything, good and bad...but now she thought, this was too much. She could not have created this moment, these lovely faces, these candles flickering, the flash of the silverware, the fragrances of the food hanging over the table, the heads turned this way and that, the voices murmuring and laughing. She looked at Walter, who was so far away from her, all the way at the other end of the table, having a laugh with Andrea...As if on cue, Walter turned from Andrea and looked at Rosanna, and they agreed in that instant: something had created itself from nothing-- a dumpy old house had been filled, if only for this moment, with twenty-three different worlds, each one of them rich and mysterious. Rosanna wrapped her arms around herself for a moment and sat down. "

One of the most fascinating things about this book is the way Smiley understands the voices of her characters. It is perhaps expected for a good writer to understand the actions and thoughts of a rebellious teen or a father who is unsettled by world events. But it's a testament to an author's ability when she writes from the perspective of a toddler with equal precision and understanding. This novel is filled with characters who stay and do the expected and ones who surprise everyone. Sometimes those are the same person. How well do we know our family members or even ourselves?

This is a long book but Smiley meticulously brings each character to life; each could have their own book. This is a novel that you settle in with for a while, expecting to be immersed in someone else's victories and sorrows, in the entire life of a family. The sequel, titled Early Warning, will be out in May.

9 comments:

  1. I have looked at this book several times in the book store. It looks awesome. Thanks for your review.

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    1. I enjoy an immersive book like this every so often. This is a good one!

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  3. I've never read Smiley, but I'm tempted!

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    1. It was my first time reading any of her books!

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  4. I have always admired Smiley's versatility as an author. This one sounds great! I love the way you described the strength of the character development in this novel.

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    1. Which of her other books would you recommend?

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  5. Wow, this sounds delightful. I really love books which include both big historical events and the minutia of daily life. It also seems like the author does a great job bringing her characters to life. Definitely going on my to-read list :)

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    1. Me too! I think sometimes authors get lost in major events without the realization that the minutiae of life marches on regardless of the big things.

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