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Negotiations of Agriculture and Environmentalism at the Grassroots

LitCharts Teacher Editions. Teach your students to analyze literature like LitCharts does. Detailed explanations, analysis, and citation info for every important quote on LitCharts. The original text plus a side-by-side modern translation of every Shakespeare play. LitCharts From the creators of SparkNotes, something better. A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley. Download this LitChart! Themes All Themes. Symbols All Symbols. Theme Wheel.

Themes and Colors. LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in A Thousand Acres , which you can use to track the themes throughout the work. King Lear and Good vs. There are long passages in A Thousand … read full theme analysis. Women, Sexual Abuse, and Fertility.

As Smiley has stated in interviews and essays, part of her intention in writing One Thousand Acres was… read full theme analysis. Inheritance, Land, and Memory. Download it! Appearance vs. Cite This Page. MLA Chicago. Arn, Jackson. Retrieved July 3, Copy to Clipboard. 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 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. And poison in the well water, it is suggested, prevents her from completing a pregnancy. 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. You could handle him better. You ought to let a lot of things slide. 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 and more perceptive 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 becomes more of 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. 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. View all 37 comments. 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 something more about 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. 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 , 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 s 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 anymore. 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, much more subtle 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 and more of 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 even more than 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 being more than 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. View all 9 comments. 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.

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

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.

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 learn more about this family, it becomes clear that things have not been right for many years. 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.

View all 70 comments. Jun 11, Violet wells rated it really liked it Shelves: contemporary-american-fiction , 21st-century , faves , pulitzer. Smiley uses King Lear as her framework for this novel. We have the ailing patriarch, a kingdom in decline and his three contesting daughters. 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. 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.

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. 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. 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. 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 a more comprehensively thrilling and satisfying novel had Smiley kept the King Lear blueprint more of 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.

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. View all 20 comments. Set in '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 much more than 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 encompasses more than 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. View all 13 comments. Nov 05, Jonathan Ashleigh rated it liked it Shelves: farm-shelf , recent. 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.

It seemed at times that Smiley was trying to convince the reader that organic farming is the best way. I enjoyed this book thoroughly through the first third but, after that, it became over dramatized and lost me. View all 3 comments. Sep 14, Margitte rated it really liked it Shelves: read , community , family-sagas , reviewed , chicken-soup-for-the-soul-read , american-novel , drama , fiction , relationships. Rose: "Forgiveness is a reflex for when you can't stand what you know.

I resisted that reflex. That's my sole, solitary, lonely accomplishment. 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 Rose: "Forgiveness is a reflex for when you can't stand what you know.

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. 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. Ginny: "When 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. Caroline was neither stubborn and sullen, like Ginny, nor rebellious and back talking, like Rose. Caroline was a loving child, he said. Ginny: " She 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 any more from being asked. 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 a more brighter, more sharper, more 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. COMMENTS This 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.

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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 that more hidden elements will be discovered the more the 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.


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View all 30 comments. Dec 25, Perry rated it really liked it Recommended to Perry by: Robin. Lear here is Larry Cook, an elderly farmer who owns 1, 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. View all 4 comments. 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.

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. View all 17 comments.

Jun 03, Wanda rated it did not like it. Ok, I got to page of this book and I figured that life was too short to go ahead with this torture. I found it so excrutiatingly dull as to be an exercise in nothing more than endurance. Smiley's story of the decline of an Iowa farm family is ostensibly based on King Lear. In reality it has no remote resemblance to King Lear, who was a sympathetically tragic character — perhaps one of his greatest. An Ok, I got to page of this book and I figured that life was too short to go ahead with this torture. And the daughters — rather than being based on the odious Goneril and Regan, are truly distorted beyond recognition.

The issues in King Lear involve complex human relationships and interactions. Not so with these farm folks. Not that abuse is not a real problem, but it has been a bit overdone, and overdone, and overdone. There is nothing fresh or new about this rendering of an overdone topic.

Blah, baloney, balderdash. In page after boring page, nothing whatever of any significance happens. She describes everything — everything, every covered dish at the social, every vegetable in the garden.

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This would be OK, but these details play no discernible role in the story, except to add more pages to the book. Once again, I have found an author who is in serious need of a good editor. If your book club votes on this one, skip that meeting. You will be happy you did not waste your time. View all 5 comments. You do not realize it is pulling you in, but it does so bit by bit. Every time I picked up the book, I read for long periods.

The author, Jane Smiley, was judicious and clever in her use of these moments. It is well done and gives the novel a full feeling. Some strong moments in the book include a scene in chapter 29 where a character remembers suppressed childhood trauma. It is concise and harrowing in its portrayal of that awakening. Equally strong is chapter 33, which is one of the most realistic depictions of a fight between a long time couple that I have ever read. What is unsaid is powerful, and I cringed in recognition while reading it.

Tragedy is not outdated. My intellectual side knows that it rings true. Feb 14, Paul Bryant rated it it was ok Shelves: novels.


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For instance Out, vile jelly! Where is thy lustre now? And the reason the father gives the farm to the daughters in the first place is to avoid taxes. That kind of thing. Nothing wrong with that. I loves them. I mean, all that neck-bulging ranting and raving. All that howling on the blasted heath and the Fool and the poor weather.

Who can care. No, give me Macbeth with its genius fast-moving plot and Hamlet with its genius characters and brilliantly various scenes throughout. You can stuff your turgid King Lear. It turns out Surprise!! Just another domestic Radovan Karadzic, just another good ole Josef Fritzl. What Jane Smiley dials up is endless itemising of the stuff farm people have in their lives and particularly how they dress and what they cook. Yes, we have detail : Here was Caroline, sitting on the couch, her dirndl skirt fanned out around her, her hands folded in her lap, her lace-trimmed ankle socks and black Mary Janes stuck out in front of her He was wearing cowboy boots, the ones he always wore off the farm.

He had two or three pairs, and the high heels made his legs look long. He was in better shape than Ty, although not without a little thickness in the middle. He had two or three pairs? Gee, what about that. They made his legs look long? No way! And the book is also full to the brim of farm-coloured white noise, like this: Starting about the fifteenth of September, and every day after that, Ty took the portable moisture tester out into the fields, hoping against hope that with good weather he could start harvesting early.

When he came back, he and Jess drove the two combines, the big three-year-old six-row picker and the old two-row picker and Daddy had bought used five years earlier, already with four thousand hours on it. Could be, then, that this was never going to be a hit with me. It was no fun. Not one half-smile to be had in the whole pages. It was dour, it was worthy, it was plodding, it was thoroughly unenlightening, it was like am I ever going to finish this?

As flies to wanton boys, are we to the Pulitzer Prize committee; They bore us for their sport. View all 7 comments. Dec 03, Scott Axsom rated it it was amazing Shelves: favorites.

A Thousand Acres Symbols, Allegory and Motifs

The layers of A Thousand Acres are many and Smiley offers a measureless stream of betrayal and death; the death of innocence, of illusion, of hope, of trust, of a way of life and, most of all, the death of a family resulting from the exposure of its most sacred myths to the stark light of honest reflection. She describes with heart-rending frankness the universally-familiar Machiavellian aspects of family dynamics and, by placing them in the context of the great American bucolic dream, she renders them commonplace.

The tale serves as a profound reminder to live honestly and authentically, regardless of the pain that's sometimes necessary to achieve such a state of grace. This book, I think, is now tied for second, along with The Grapes of Wrath , among my favorite books of all time. A poignant and eye-opening read. View all 12 comments. Dec 13, Rebbie rated it really liked it Shelves: Well that was depressing.

I don't even know what to say about it, other than the fact that despite my serious issues with the lack of morality and accountability from both older sisters, and the obnoxious baby sister who deliberately stuck her head in the sand, the book moved me deeply. Perhaps it's because I related to the darkest parts of it all too well.

The melancholy mixed with the loneliness that the choice to stick up for oneself and break free will inevitably bring, felt like a heavy, dus Well that was depressing. The melancholy mixed with the loneliness that the choice to stick up for oneself and break free will inevitably bring, felt like a heavy, dusty coat that I'm all too familiar with shrouding myself in.

Jane Smiley did a superb job with showing the hard, cold truth of dealing with dark family secrets head-on. I suspect that many people, mainly those who never have to choose between themselves and their family, believe that the freedom associated with choosing yourself feels good. It does not. But it does feel liberating, even though it hurts and it's confusing and above all, it takes guts because the cost is more than most people are willing to pay.