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A Thousand Acres Aging Larry Cook announces his intention to turn over his , acre farm one of the largest in Zebulon County, Iowa to his three daughters, Caroline, Ginny, and Rose A man of harsh sensibilities, he carves Caroline out of the deal because she has the nerve to be less than enthusiastic about her father s generosity While Larry Cook deteriorates into a pathetic drunk, his daughters are left to cope with the often grim realities of life on a family farm from battering husbands to cutthroat lenders In this winner of thePulitzer Prize for Fiction, Smiley captures the essence of such a life with stark, painful detail

  • Paperback
  • 371 pages
  • A Thousand Acres
  • Jane Smiley
  • English
  • 11 June 2018
  • 1400033837

About the Author: Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley is a Pulitzer Prize winning American novelist.Born in Los Angeles, California, Smiley grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St Louis, and graduated from John Burroughs School She obtained a A.B at Vassar College, then earned a M.F.A and Ph.D from the University of Iowa While working towards her doctorate, she also spent a year studying in Iceland as a Fulbright Scholar From 1981 to 1996, she taught at Iowa State University Smiley published her first novel, Barn Blind, in 1980, and won a 1985 O Henry Award for her short story Lily , which was published in The Atlantic Monthly Her best selling A Thousand Acres, a story based on William Shakespeare s King Lear, received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1992 It was adapted into a film of the same title in 1997 In 1995 she wrote her sole television script produced, for an episode of Homicide Life on the Street Her novella The Age of Grief was made into the 2002 film The Secret Lives of Dentists Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel 2005 , is a non fiction meditation on the history and the nature of the novel, somewhat in the tradition of E M Forster s seminal Aspects of the Novel, that roams from eleventh century Japan s Murasaki Shikibu s The Tale of Genji to twenty first century Americans chick lit.In 2001, Smiley was elected a member of The American Academy of Arts and Letters.



10 thoughts on “A Thousand Acres

  1. Will Byrnes Will Byrnes says:

    Daddy thinks history starts fresh every day, every minute, that time itself begins with the feelings he s having right now That s how he keeps betraying us, why he roars at us with such conviction We have to stand up to that, and say, at least to ourselves, that what he s done before is still with us, still right here in this room until there s true remorse Nothing will be right until there s that He looks so, sort of, weakened Weakened is not enough Destroyed isn t enough He s g Daddy thinks history starts fresh every day, every minute, that time itself begins with the feelings he s having right now That s how he keeps betraying us, why he roars at us with such conviction We have to stand up to that, and say, at least to ourselves, that what he s done before is still with us, still right here in this room until there s true remorse Nothing will be right until there s that He looks so, sort of, weakened Weakened is not enough Destroyed isn t enough He s got to repent and feel humiliation and regret I won t be satisfied until he knows what he is Do we know what we are We know we aren t him We know that to that degree we don t yet deserve the lowest circle of hell Jane Smiley s Pulitzer Prize winning A Thousand Acres takes most of its inspiration from King Lear, but works that soil with bountiful quantities of modern nutrients In the original, the elderly Lear, wanting to retire from his royal duties, seeks to distribute his kingdom among his children, with the largest share going to the daughter who loves him most makes you want to smack the guy However, there is no fool like an old fool and Lear, offended by the simple, if unadorned, honesty of his youngest, Cordelia, and manipulated by the flattery of his elder two, Goneril and Regan, disinherits Cordelia The play portrays the elder sisters in a very dark light But how might that tale look through their eyes Are they really that awful Maybe Lear had it coming Maybe Willy the Shake is a bit too locked in to a misogynistic, patriarchal world view to give the ladies a fair um shake Enter Jane Smiley, stage left, to introduce King Lear in the Great Plains.Jane Smiley image from The SpectatorShe parks the kingdom in Iowa Unlike Kinsella s vision of the place, this version ain t heaven Larry Cook is both old and a fool In a fit of one upsmanship in the face of his highly manipulative and competitive bff, Harold, Larry decides to step back from his work and hand the farm over to his children This seems ok, I guess, to the oldest, Ginny Goneril and her younger sister Rose Regan , but the youngest, Caroline Cordelia , a lawyer, expresses her reservations about how it is being done This is enough to set off the old guy and he writes her out of the deal, even at one point literally slamming the door in her face Don t let it hit you on the nose on your way out Caroline is not exactly interested in farming, so the insult isabout personal rejection than lost acreage Smiley does not offer an exact correspondence of her characters to Shakespeare s There will be no Cordelia dying in her father s arms here, and this Lear appears to gain no wisdom or compassion from his experiences Ginny is our narrator through the story She loves her Daddy, and tries to make allowances for his constant verbal abuse and irascibility In fact she is incapable of standing up to him Rose despises Larry, and for good cause, as it turns out, but the two sisters had protected Caroline from Larry s worst inclinations, so her affection for her father is untainted by Ginny and Rose s darker experience of him There is major departure here from the source material Rose and Ginny hardly suck up to pops to gain advantage like their Elizabethan counterparts had Their husbands do a good job of that though Ginny genuinely, if misguidedly, loves her father And even if Rose had been plotting against Larry, well, he really deserved it But in fact, the sisters arebewildered recipients of Larry s surprise largesse than anything else I set about correcting my friend William Shakespeare something no sane adult would attempt I gave the royal family a background and a milieu I gave the daughters a rationale for their apparently cruel behavior Austin Allen quoting Smiley in an article in BigThink If Lear were guilty of Larry s sins, it would certainly alter our view of his daughters behavior And that is one of the points The Elizabethan sisters are presumed to be incompetent to run anything, because they are female Smiley points out some of the potential horrors of running a profitable farm, and it is clear that farmers of either gender would be challenged to make a go of it However, Ginny has always been prevented from doing much with the farm, kept in domestic service her entire life Rose is a tough cookie, who has endured an abusive husband, but is very much a competent, no nonsense sort, to a fault She proudly proclaims that when she wants something, she takes it Both Rose and Ginny have been poisoned by their environment, both natural and familial The poisons used on the farm, it is implied, are the reason why Ginny was never able to bring a pregnancy to term, and why Rose has breast cancer she has had a mastectomy How awful is it when one s identity involves land and the very land that reflects the self has been poisoned There is something to being rooted to a place There is comfort in the solidity, reliability, history, pride and maybe even beauty of a place Generations past may have established a home, a residence, property in a particular location and invested years and lives both molding the land and taking sustenance from it Their efforts planted the seeds which became the roots from which we spring But what if the land, the roots themselves are no good What if the means used to sustain the human place relationship has fouled both What if the place that is expected to sustain life drains it instead Poisoned land poisoned lives.Does the land define a person The book opens with a quote The body repeats the landscape They are the source of each other and create each other The landscape is mostly flat, with a central mound from which all can be seen, the division of local land among rival families, yet for all the visibility it is what lies unseen that devours the characters The difference between appearance and reality, between what is visible and what lies hidden permeates the novel Ginny talks with her husband about dealing with Larry You re right I don t understand him But a lot of the taking issue that you see is just us trying to figure out how to understand him better I feel like there s treacherous undercurrents all the time I think I m standing on solid ground, but then I discover there s something moving underneath it, shifting from place to place There s always some mystery He doesn t say what he means Larry presents to the world as a successful farmer and family man, when in fact, he has been destroying his own land and abusing and, effectively, killing his family at the same time That he has taken unfair, predatory advantage of his neighbors only adds spice Ginny recalls a sane childhood with her father, but the reality lies in another field There is enough mendacity in the air to warrant an EPA alert, and I could not help thinking of another fictional patriarch every time the daughters call their father Daddy.This is a place in which family is held as the pinnacle of human value, but when the Ericson family moved away, when Ginny was a kid, she desperately wanted to leave with them It is only when Ginny is able to separate herself from the land that she can be her own person Motherhood and apple pie do not go together much in this view of the heartland Rose and Ginny s mother dies young Rose is afflicted with a dread disease at a very young age and her ability to complete the raising of her children is not certain Ginny, who takes on some parental responsibility for her nieces, is not as close to them as a real mother might be In fact, the greatest maternal love Ginny experienced was from Mrs Ericson And poison in the well water, it is suggested, prevents her from completing a pregnancy Not many cards being sent on Mother s Day in this place Like Lear, Larry goes a little funny in the head, and doubling down on foolishness, insists on wandering about on his own during a large thunderstorm Dick Cheney, anyone, doubling down on torture after the report on its ineffectiveness came out He will not listen to reason Further misery stems from this unfortunate outing In fact there is an awful lot of misery in this tale, of the short term, long term and terminal sorts Unlike Lear, who at least picked up a bit of compassion and humility from his excesses, Larry learns nothing from his errors I did get the impression that in presenting what is certainly a feminist look at Lear, the guys come off pretty badly, tarred with a dark brush the way Willie the Shake treated the elder sisters in the original Harold is totally poisonous, as is Larry Ginny s husband seems pretty reasonable a lot of the time, but we are given a much darker view of him later in the tale In one scene, eager to gain both land and Larry s blessings, Ty talks to Ginny about dealing with Larry you women could handle it better You could handle him better You don t always have to take issue You ought to let a lot of things slide which sounds to me a lot like just lie back and enjoy it Ginny thinks of Ty as dumb and passive, whatever his better qualities might be Rose s husband is a drunk and an abuser Even the returning prodigal, the handsome and charming Jess, the one who wants to farm organically and restore some purity to the land, engages in a bit of shtup and tell, and ultimately proves less than reliable So what are we to make of all this Lear offers a structure but the story seems to be about both feminism and America The women here, even the tougher andperceptive ones, have to put up with an unspeakable amount of crap, and are castigated for griping about it The parallel is to the treatment of the land, which endures a similar abuse, as farming becomesof a heavily mechanized food production system than something that allows one to feel a connection to the earth What about readability, characters, does it make sense, can you engage, will you care A Thousand Acres is a very readable book This darkly dramatic story flows along at a rapid clip and it will definitely hold your interest Ginny is our guide through this particular part of Iowa, and will engage your sympathy, although you will want to roll your eyes at some of her behavior It is understandable how she came to be the way she is, for the most part, and we want her to come out of it all ok There is a revelation about Ginny s history that makes one wonder how she could have blocked a particular memory I suppose it is possible, but it was a stretch to accept Battles are engaged, dirt is done, plots are hatched, backs are stabbed, poison is prepared, truths are told, cars are crashed, lightning bolts flash There is plenty of drama to be experienced here, as plowshares are beaten into swords If there are giants in this maybe no longer good earth, they are pissed and taking revenge Watch out A Thousand Acres is powerful stuff No fertilizer needed EXTRA STUFFLinks to the author s web site, FB page and Huff Po blogAn Interview with Mary Camille Beckman, of Fiction Writers Review, in which Smiley talks about writingAn interview with Matthew Rothschild of The Progressive on politics in her writingRoger Ebert has some unkind things to say about the film that was made of A Thousand AcresA 2003 profile of Smiley from The Guardian

  2. Glen Engel-Cox Glen Engel-Cox says:

    When this book was chosen by our book club for this month s theme of tragedy, I approached reading it with some trepidation There are a number of things that I don t care for in literature, and one of them is the family drama which centers on the drama as drama for its own sake, rather than to say somethingabout the world Part of my bias against this kind of writing comes from having cut my eyeteeth on science fiction, the literature of ideas which, at its best, is about today as much When this book was chosen by our book club for this month s theme of tragedy, I approached reading it with some trepidation There are a number of things that I don t care for in literature, and one of them is the family drama which centers on the drama as drama for its own sake, rather than to say somethingabout the world Part of my bias against this kind of writing comes from having cut my eyeteeth on science fiction, the literature of ideas which, at its best, is about today as much as it is about a future I also spent three years in a creative writing program where, god bless them, my fellow students seemed to spend a lot of time writing autobiographical stories that didn t have much to say beyond it sucks to grow up in fill in the blank The book had won a Pulitzer, and if there s anything I learned in my MFA classes on literature, an award was often a signal that a book was not for the reader but written for the critics A Thousand Acres screamed to me from its cover that it was that kind of book, that focused on the dissolution of the family as seen through a retelling of the King Lear story I shuddered.But, really, I shouldn t have Having previously read two books by Jane Smiley the quite amusing MOO and the intelligent and thoughtful Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel , I should have given her the benefit of the doubt Within the first fifty pages, I was surprised that Smiley had drawn me into her story, and while it was still fairly mundane the family dog wasn t going to start talking on page 100, to my dismay , I found the voice of the narrator intriguing and wondered just how much of King Lear Smiley was going to be able to transpose to 1970s Iowa Turns out, quite a bit, in a wondrously deft way that I would have termed a tour de force if I used that phrase any.The narrator is the eldest of the three daughters, and instead of a king dividing up his kingdom, the family farm is to be divided among the daughters somewhat early by forming a corporation in which he gives control of the farm to the children, in a sudden move that delights the older daughters and their husbands and alarms the youngest, who no longer lives on the farm nor has much to do with it Her concern about the alacrity of his decision infuriates the father, so much that he cuts her out of the paperwork process and thus the land itself Pretty much every plot point in the Shakespearean play is touched upon in some manner, but never so roughly that the connections feel strained If anything, Smiley s version is much, muchsubtle in its understanding of the characters motivations, giving both a sympathetic portrait of the older two sisters that is entirely missing in the play, as well as making the Lear figure less of a madman andof a stubborn one, such that when his stubbornness leads him into the rain, his madness becomes if not sensible, at least reasonable You don t necessarily take any one character s side in this fight, but none seems such a villain.What Smiley does that, I think, one ups Shakespeare eventhan making the female characters sympathetic is that she truly makes the tragedy about the land as about the people In the background, and infusing everything the characters do to a point, is the thousand acres of the title Perhaps it is because it is hard for us to imagine a kingdom as something one can own and pass to your children, for it s very easy to grasp the concept of these thousand acres, how much they mean to the family, and how tragic it is that this family cannot hold on to that land In the past, I ve been less than sympathetic to the concept of the family farm, but even my cold heart can t read what Smiley has described here and see it as anything but a tragedy.What this novel has over the modern literature that I feared it would be is not only a plot people die here, not to mention being maimed and insulted and cruelly treated but a larger meaning, and that big picture of this beingthan just a personal tragedy, is what makes this worthwhile reading Out of the group who read this for book club, I turned out to rate this book the highest, and that is to say, I recommend it strongly edited to fix that darn extra apostrophe

  3. Jaline Jaline says:

    For three generations, the Cook family have worked hard to create a thriving agriculture operation, draining swamplands, turning the weeds and grass into rich fertile soil As time went on, their holdings eventually reached what felt like a magic number to the family a thousand acres.Larry Cook decides he wants to ensure his legacy continues to flourish and presents a plan to split it between his three daughters and their husbands Ginny, the eldest and Rose, two years younger agree to comply For three generations, the Cook family have worked hard to create a thriving agriculture operation, draining swamplands, turning the weeds and grass into rich fertile soil As time went on, their holdings eventually reached what felt like a magic number to the family a thousand acres.Larry Cook decides he wants to ensure his legacy continues to flourish and presents a plan to split it between his three daughters and their husbands Ginny, the eldest and Rose, two years younger agree to comply with their father s wishes but the youngest daughter Caroline is not interested She is a lawyer and is about to marry another lawyer and has no interest in farming That a child of his thwarts him is intolerable to this domineering patriarch and he cuts Caroline off completely.As this well plotted story proceeds and we learnabout this family, it becomes clear that things have not been right for many years Certainly not since Larry s wife and the girls mother died when Ginny was fourteen years old It is now Ginny s responsibility to cook, clean, and care for her much younger sister along with help from twelve year old Rose As the story progresses, we discover that even before their mother s death, Ginny and Rose did not have a carefree childhood Everything they experienced, as sisters and as a family, shaped their own later lives as surely as a braided loaf of bread.The characters in this book are each unique unto themselves Each has their own way of getting their way, getting along, and giving way when necessary The husbands and the neighbours are all well drawn and coloured in each one is memorable for their own personal impact on the story.There is sadness, tragedy and incredible challenges faced by this family In the end, how they cope with both the good times and the bad times further defines their characters and their relationships with each other.This book is written with great expertise in illustrating the many dimensions each person carries within The plot of this book is strongly driven by these characterizations and we come to understandfully how people s lives and their interactions with each other sow the seeds of who we become yet it is how we nurture those seeds that determines how we grow

  4. Violet wells Violet wells says:

    Smiley uses King Lear as her framework for this novel We have the ailing patriarch, a kingdom in decline and his three contesting daughters And as you re reading you re often wondering to what extent Smiley is going to mirror the Shakespeare plot The plot of King Lear would be melodramatic vaudeville in the hands of a heavy handed author so Smiley is setting herself a huge challenge here The novel is narrated by Ginny, the eldest of the daughters In other words Goneril, the most treacherous Smiley uses King Lear as her framework for this novel We have the ailing patriarch, a kingdom in decline and his three contesting daughters And as you re reading you re often wondering to what extent Smiley is going to mirror the Shakespeare plot The plot of King Lear would be melodramatic vaudeville in the hands of a heavy handed author so Smiley is setting herself a huge challenge here The novel is narrated by Ginny, the eldest of the daughters In other words Goneril, the most treacherous, spiteful and amoral of Lear s daughters Ginny though only shares these flaws in the most subtle of ways and it takes a while before they begin to emerge On the surface she is self effacing, obedient, submissive to both her father and husband She is childless, the victim of several miscarriages and thus jealous of her sister Rose who has two girls She is also jealous of her younger sister Caroline Cordelia who has escaped the farm and rural life to become a lawyer in the city Two events throw the quiet stable long preserved continuity of life on the farms into disarray The father hands over the farms to his three daughters except Caroline expresses doubts as to the wisdom of this decision and he rages and cuts her off and the return of a neighbouring farmer s vagabond handsome son and his championing of organic farming I had been watching Jess all evening I had a third eye for Jess alone, a telescopic lens that detected every expression that crossed his face These events are portrayed like a calamity of sudden violent weather conditions, bringing to the surface poisons in the soil capable of destroying the most scrupulously observed methods of tilling the land The connection between the soil and human emotion is a constant factor in the unfolding of this novel First thing that strikes is the poise and control of the narrative voice There s an awful lot of drama in this novel and with a less measured voice it might easily degenerate into soap opera ish melodrama But the poise and the control of the narrative voice is superb throughout As a result what might occasionally be hard to swallow is easily digested Then there s Smiley s soothsaying insight into human emotion and motive Her greatest gift as a writer is her ability to expose the secrets of the heart, the pivotal subtleties of feeling on which lives spin The excavating nuances of her observations were relentlessly thrilling I always feel a little guilty when I break bad news to someone, because that energy, of knowing something others don t, sort of puffs you up Smiley s also a master at creating and sustaining dramatic tension She even writes sex well an almost unheard of talent in my experience I thought about having sex with Jess Clark and I could feel my flesh turn electric at these thoughts, could feel sensation gather at my nipples, could feel my vagina relax and open, could feel my lips and fingertips grow sensitive enough to know their own shapes So why not five stars The drama is lavished on very thickly You get caught up in one drama adultery but then before any kind of resolution arrives a bigger drama is introduced child abuse and then an even bigger one a plotted murder Now and again I have to admit I wondered if it might not have been acomprehensively thrilling and satisfying novel had Smiley kept the King Lear blueprintof a subliminal refrain The literally murderous nature of some emotions seemed a bit forced to me Also I thought she overloaded the father with culpability He was a fabulously compelling male tyrant already without tarring and feathering him with a new and truly horrendous crime Daddy thinks history starts fresh every day, every minute, that time itself begins with the feelings he s having right now That s how he keeps betraying us, why he roars at us with such conviction But these are small misgivings in what was a fabulously exciting reading experience Jess came toward Rose and me with a smile that I felt myself hook onto, the way you would hook a rope ladder over a windowsill and lower yourself out of a burning house We drove in a kind of wholesome silence, carrying our whole long marriage, all the hope and kindness that it represented, with us What it felt like was sitting in Sunday school singing Jesus loves me, sitting in the little chairs, surrounded by sunlight and bright drawings, and having those first inklings of doubt, except that doubt presents itself simply as added knowledge, something new, for the moment, to set beside what is already known

  5. Robin Robin says:

    King Lear 1970 s Iowa farm dynasty riveting storytellingHaving never read Jane Smiley before, I m glad I started with this dazzling 1992 Pulitzer Prize winner Set in 1970 s Iowa farm country, we follow the Cook family Larry, the cruel, no nonsense patriarch, and his daughters Ginny the narrator , Rose and Caroline At the onset of the story, Larry decides to retire and pass down the farm to his daughters and their husbands Caroline, the youngest, the only daughter who managed to get off King Lear 1970 s Iowa farm dynasty riveting storytellingHaving never read Jane Smiley before, I m glad I started with this dazzling 1992 Pulitzer Prize winner Set in 1970 s Iowa farm country, we follow the Cook family Larry, the cruel, no nonsense patriarch, and his daughters Ginny the narrator , Rose and Caroline At the onset of the story, Larry decides to retire and pass down the farm to his daughters and their husbands Caroline, the youngest, the only daughter who managed to get off the farm and works as a lawyer, is skeptical about this plan Larry, who doesn t tolerate opposition, is incensed A rift in the family is born, cracking it open and spilling out all kinds of secrets, eventually bringing forth the painful truth at the core.I was amazed while reading this first, because I was drawn in almost immediately, I was so quickly invested in the lives of her characters I was also amazed at how Smiley incorporated the ambitious Shakespearean inspired plot, taking the story to dark and deep places.Despite all this depth and darkness, there is an accessibility that carried me through with ease Marriages with tensions, lost pregnancies, and an unwelcome, sexy interloper ramping up the drama Betrayal and death and storms and unforgivable acts.Thanks to its setting, there is a lot of detail about the minutia of American farm life which sounds like a heck of a lot of hard work However, this tale is about so muchthan tending corn fields and hog raising It s about family, secrets, identity, and perspective shaping each person s truth It tells about the unfair rules pertaining to the sexes, and the oppression and abuse of women It s also about destiny Ginny in particular lives in a passivity even when she commits her most brutal action, which forces her to wait as she has her whole life The book also deals with legacy, an inheritance which encompassesthan just money and objects This inheritance encompasses lessons and truth passed down from those who have come before This truth brings with it the death of innocence, the American dream shattered The coveted, multi generational farm symbolises the fallacy of dreams at its great, tragic heart

  6. Margitte Margitte says:

    RoseForgiveness is a reflex for when you can t stand what you know I resisted that reflex That s my sole, solitary, lonely accomplishment This is a story about a family and their one thousand acre farm in Zebulon County, Iowa It is a detailed account of life on an American farm Three sisters had to live through the memories of their childhood, the death of their mother, and the relationship they all had with their father Betrayal, trust, loyalty, and fate were slowly building up a towe RoseForgiveness is a reflex for when you can t stand what you know I resisted that reflex That s my sole, solitary, lonely accomplishment This is a story about a family and their one thousand acre farm in Zebulon County, Iowa It is a detailed account of life on an American farm Three sisters had to live through the memories of their childhood, the death of their mother, and the relationship they all had with their father Betrayal, trust, loyalty, and fate were slowly building up a tower of deceit which was waiting for the first serious storm to take it down Virginia Ginny Cook Smith and Rose Cook Lewis are handed over their father s land when he formed a corporation and relinquish the thousand acres to them Larry Cook forced his daughters to sign Ginny s husband, Tyler Smith, and Rose s husband, Peter Lewis, took over the overall management A spanner is thrown into the works when Jess Clark arrived back in the neighborhood Caroline Cook, the youngest daughter, is kept out of the initial agreement Then in a turn of events, she tried to find a way to turn the agreement around, accusing her sisters of foul play, especially when their dad loses his mind and start acting strange wandering off buying unnecessary stuff, and sitting for hours looking out his window without batting an eye The rift in the relationship opened up a hornets nest of bitter memories and secrets Caroline did not share the special bond between Ginny and Rose GinnyWhen I dropped Rose at her house, she kissed me on the cheek The fact was that we had known each other all our lives but we had never gotten tired of each other Our bond had a peculiar fertility that I was wise enough to appreciate, and also, perhaps, wise enough to appreciate in silence Rose wouldn t have stood for any sentimentality Their dad often said that Caroline was a better child than the two older sisters Caroline was neither stubborn and sullen, like Ginny, nor rebellious and back talking, like Rose Caroline was a loving child, he said GinnyShe kissed her dolls, and kissed him, too, when he wanted a kiss If he said, Cary, give me a kiss, that way he always did, without warning, half an order, half a plea, she would pop into his lap and put her arms around his neck and smack him on the lips Seeing her do it always made me feel odd, as if a heavy stone were floating and turning within me, that stone of stubbornness and reluctance that kept me anyfrom being asked Larry Cook prevented his oldest daughters from having outside contact Home was good enough Home was best No sleep overs with school friends, in fact, no friends at all, no dances, no school activities The two girls decided to do the right thing for their youngest sister They made sure she socialized, attended school activities, made friends, and escape the farm They ensured her abrighter,sharper,promising life She got it But their selfless act of love and kindness backfired on them when Caroline finished her studies and became a wealthy lawyer, cut off from the tough life on the farm Her attitude and deliberate miscommunication with her sisters, destroyed any chance of a relationship between the three sisters.The new owners of the farm battled to keep it afloat, increasing loans and sliding into a dangerous situation which could cost them the land Like with all farm land, the size became too small for the ever increasing number of people who had to live off it COMMENTSThis is an intense drama, in which the reader is pulled into the story in the first fifty pages and made part of the family in such a way that there s no point of return At one stage I did want to close the book, wondering what the point of the story was So much detail extremely detailed itinaries of feelings, content of the homes, farming equipment, the bottled food, and what not, felt like a way to dump unnecessary words into the text and fill up too many pages with irrelevant information It could have been for effect only, since it did not really fed the drama However, the same detail also established the essence of the American farm life exactly how it was lived what was needed how it was managed how communities interact with each other the meanness, tricks, betrayals, the good will, sentiment, hard work, and so forth It is a complex story which can be dissected on many levels This is an excellent book club read.Ginny is the protagonist narrating the saga in the first person A complex personality in herself All the characters are well developed throughout the narrative The line between likable and non likable are clearly drawn, and none of the characters were left underdeveloped There was no misunderstanding about the intent, or role, of each character in the story I did not feel good after closing the book I was emotionally drained The relationships and different background elements in the book had to be reconsidered several times before I could finalize this review There are just too many sides to this story An excellent read indeed I am sure thathidden elements will be discovered thethe book is read Yes, complex, heartbreaking,soul wrenching, inspiring, intense, informative and thought provoking this is how I summarize this experience The theme of this Pulitzer Prize winning book is dark However, I will read this author again I simply identified one hundred percent with the farming background Come to think of it, farming can be regarded as a character in the book perhaps.Recommended

  7. Jonathan Ashleigh Jonathan Ashleigh says:

    In the beginning I felt there were a lot of characters to keep track of, but while some names are mentioned later on that I did not recall that was not actually a problem for me I only realized while reading other reviews that this was a spin off of King Lear and that helps explain why some of the characters, while otherwise humble, cheated on their spouses and even tried to kill the people closest to them I thought that the idea of the death of the American farm was the most powerful part o In the beginning I felt there were a lot of characters to keep track of, but while some names are mentioned later on that I did not recall that was not actually a problem for me I only realized while reading other reviews that this was a spin off of King Lear and that helps explain why some of the characters, while otherwise humble, cheated on their spouses and even tried to kill the people closest to them I thought that the idea of the death of the American farm was the most powerful part of this book but the use of the game of Monopoly to describe this fell short.It seemed at times that Smiley was trying to convince the reader that organic farming is the best way There were long descriptions of what people ate and these were supposed to be character traits, including a vegetarian from Seattle who doesn t drink beer but likes Coke.I enjoyed this book thoroughly through the first third but, after that, it became over dramatized and lost me All of the characters got dramatically angry or stepped out of their character at some point and there wasn t one I could cling to

  8. Perry Perry says:

    Hawkeyes, Hayseeds and Hotheads Flammable Flamily SecretsWinner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 1991 National Book Critics Circle fiction award, Jane Smiley s novel represents a robust, red faced reworking of Shakespeare s King Lear, a family tragedy set against the bucolic Iowa farmland Lear here is Larry Cook, an elderly farmer who owns 1,000 acres he decides to gift to his three daughters via a business entity The oldest daughter Ginny is thrilled, the youngest daughter Caroli Hawkeyes, Hayseeds and Hotheads Flammable Flamily SecretsWinner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 1991 National Book Critics Circle fiction award, Jane Smiley s novel represents a robust, red faced reworking of Shakespeare s King Lear, a family tragedy set against the bucolic Iowa farmland Lear here is Larry Cook, an elderly farmer who owns 1,000 acres he decides to gift to his three daughters via a business entity The oldest daughter Ginny is thrilled, the youngest daughter Caroline, an attorney who resides a couple of hours away, thinks it s a bad idea and wants nothing to do with it, while the gesture stokes hot coals of resentment from middle daughter Rose, who claims dad sexually abused her repeatedly over many years after the girls mom died Thus the gift becomes a sort of molotov cocktail thrown into a huge tinderbox of incendiary family secrets.Smiley sensitively handles the sex abuse allegations Rose senses daddy s using this as repentance or hush money for his awful violations and wants vengeance Ginny has repressed all memories of any abuse and tries to act as peacemaker between Rose and daddy and, Caroline was sheltered from daddy s advances by her two sisters Smiley deftly displays how fiery resentment can eat away at the soul of the victim, Rose, as cancer slowly consumes her body A family fracture reaches seismic proportions between Ginny and Rose, on the one hand, and on the other Daddy and Caroline, who ironically thinks her sisters are being greedy and ungrateful after Rose lashes out at dad who thereafter seems to suffer progressive dementia The novel covers themes from truth, pride and generational conflict to natural justice and mental illness Throw in adulterous sexual relations, sibling sexual rivalry, a symbolic severe thunderstorm and a blinding of a neighbor by chemical accident and you have a modern day Shakespearean tragedy in the land of hawkeyes, hayseeds and hotheads

  9. Paul Falk Paul Falk says:

    The family dynamics of this knock about tale remind me of a ride that I haven t been on since I was a kid Bumper cars Chances are, you ve been in one too This character driven narrative hammered out many complexities shared among family members In this case, the Cooks The author presented a dynamic, well written storyline with twists and turns that kept me amused, bewildered and saddened The main characters and there were several, were well developed So much so that I felt a connection wi The family dynamics of this knock about tale remind me of a ride that I haven t been on since I was a kid Bumper cars Chances are, you ve been in one too This character driven narrative hammered out many complexities shared among family members In this case, the Cooks The author presented a dynamic, well written storyline with twists and turns that kept me amused, bewildered and saddened The main characters and there were several, were well developed So much so that I felt a connection with each and every one of them The narrative started slow, built momentum as it gathered steam and had an ending well worth waiting for.The Cook family lived on an Iowa farm in Zebulon County One thousand acres in all Large by local standards Larry, the patriarch, the father, had his hands full with his farm and three daughters Ginny, Rose and Caroline Oldest to youngest Or is it, did they have their hands full with him Now grown women Their mother had died when they were in grade school Two decades ago.One day, out of the clear blue, Larry felt it was time to call it quits No one had known what had brought that on And Larry wasn t talking He gave the farm to his daughters with just one stipulation It had to be run like clockwork Just the way their father did No exceptions Big shoes to fill To the daughters, it seemed like a good idea at the time That was until everything went sideways Caroline, the youngest, wanted no part of it She was through with farming A lawyer now and had had enough of that kind of life This caused a poignant ripple effect in the family A volcano poising to explode Prisoners of one thousand acres

  10. Libby Libby says:

    A nuanced and multilayered family drama set in 1970s Zebulon County, Iowa Jane Smiley s distinct voice births the characters of Larry Clark, and his three daughters, Ginny, Rose, and Caroline Although it shares some characteristics with Shakespeare s King Lear, it has its own shape and form and carries its own profundity Smiley is specific about the history of Larry Cook s thousand acres, its genesis through sweat equity, the draining of its marshy waters to reveal the fertile and generativ A nuanced and multilayered family drama set in 1970s Zebulon County, Iowa Jane Smiley s distinct voice births the characters of Larry Clark, and his three daughters, Ginny, Rose, and Caroline Although it shares some characteristics with Shakespeare s King Lear, it has its own shape and form and carries its own profundity Smiley is specific about the history of Larry Cook s thousand acres, its genesis through sweat equity, the draining of its marshy waters to reveal the fertile and generative soil and the secure way of life it provides for the Cook family To Ginny Cook, the eldest daughter, whose narrative voice guides our perceptions, her parents discussing the neighbors farms and finances was the epitome of comfort and all s right with the world, as she learns that their farm is the cream of the crop.When Ginny is fourteen, her comfort and security are challenged by the death of her mother Their Daddy decides that Ginny and twelve year old Rose can mother the youngest daughter, six year old Caroline Larry s presence and his expectations of his daughters play a huge role in this novel For Ginny, he has been a god like figure, and he symbolizes all that is the farm his very fearsomeness was reassuring when I thought about things like robbers or monsters, and we lived on what was clearly the best, most capably cultivated farm The biggest farm owned by the biggest farmer That fit, or maybe formed, my own sense of the right order of things The story takes up its central action when Ginny and Rose are in their mid thirties Caroline is twenty eight, a successful lawyer, the only one who s left the farm Have you ever been part of a group that you think is cohesive and works well together and another person comes along and all of a sudden, the group dynamics are turned on its head That s what happens in this story when Jess Clark returns home after a thirteen year absence Ginny and husband, Ty, and Rose and her husband, Pete, include Jess in their evenings They start playing monopoly together Jess changes the dynamics of all these relationships Jess is a vegetarian, he runs, studies Buddhism, and spouts the law of attraction Smiley builds a sexual tension gradually, and it s very powerful in its slowness to build When Larry says he s ready to retire and turn the farm over to his three daughters and their husbands, Caroline says, I don t know As quick as that, Larry disinherits her and splits the land two ways It s a situation rife with contention and Smiley breathes into its complexity All the feelings of selfishness, jealousy, and greed that lie beneath the surface, rise We all have our little kingdoms, don t we One of A Thousand Acres most important themes is environmental degradation Ginny has had several miscarriages Jess tells her it s because of chemical runoff into the wells Ty wants to set up a hog operation now that he and Ginny can work for themselves instead of for Larry A large scale industrial hog farm creates huge amounts of liquid waste, noxious odors, and toxic emissions of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide view spoiler The environmental degradation is a parallel to Larry s treatment of Ginny and Rose He rapes his daughters just as the land is now being raped hide spoiler The land will become as barren as GinnyWhat an important story I can see why A Thousand Acres novel won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1992 A movie by the same name received less than stellar reviews One criticism was poor characterization Rest assured that Smiley plumbs the depths of her characters in this novel A movie film is just not the right medium for a complicated work of this nature Skip this one if sexual abuse is a trigger for you, otherwise highly recommended, especially for book club discussions

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