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The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson
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The Year We Left Home

by Jean Thompson

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Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
Read about 30 pages but wasn't impressed with the writing or the character development. It was well written in terms of how words are laid out on the page but there wasn't really much compelling development of the characters. That's a critical flaw in the opening pages.
I suppose if you like stories that focus on a family's history you might enjoy this. But I didn't find enough to hold me long.
In some ways, I'm surprised it won an award...and in others I'm not surprised. Literary contests can pick works that meander or where nothing happens, holding the prose over the story or what it might provide for a reader in terms of messaging or experience. So perhaps you have to read the first 100 pages before things really come clear. ( )
  Laine-Cunningham | Feb 22, 2015 |
Thompson does an admirable job of bringing the Erickson family of rural Iowa to life in such a way that even though the characters are often unlikable they are also sympathetic. First, there is Anita, who, while still young, got married to a banker and tried to make herself into the perfect stay at home mom without ever giving any thought as to whether that was who she wanted to be. Then, there's Ryan who spends his elder sister's wedding day thinking about how he doesn't what to fit into the mold his family has set out for him, marrying, having babies, having a "small" mid-western life. He might escape, but will he like the new him that he discovers? Younger brother Blake is living the life that Ryan dreaded, but it seems to suit him just fine. Little sister Tori, brimming with potential, becomes a target for tragedy and is bound to her childhood home where she tries the dedication of her faithful parents. On the fringes of the Erickson family is cousin Chip who came back from Vietnam damaged and addicted to drugs and lightly deviant behavior.

Thompson tells bits and pieces of their stories in chapters that focus on one character at a time until she's teased out what is essentially a microcosm of the American experience in recent history. There's the guy that came home from Vietnam with his young life turned upside down who could never seem to turn it right again. There's the woman caught on the outer fringes of an era when being the perfect stay-at-home mom and homemaker was expected. She thought she wanted to be that, but maybe it's time that she can be more. There's the guy riding the dot-com bubble to wealth, and discovering that wealth can't deliver what he really needs. These are people living hollow lives, looking for something to fulfill them. They're looking back on older generations in the glow of memory, respecting the work they did to give the current generation the resources and the privilege to go in search of themselves. They miss that sense of hard work and purpose that permeated the lives of their elderly aunt and uncle, but these people can't be satisfied by that kind of life anymore for better and for worse.

As the book wears on, it gets to feeling a little hopeless and sad, but then something changes. The characters find some of what they're looking for in their striving. They might never quite arrive, but they come to an understanding. The Year We Left Home is a slice of life book that is over before it's truly ended, but it's got one of the best last paragraphs I think I've ever read, a paragraph that starts out cryptic but then ties Thompson's whole accomplishment together with respect for the past and hope for the future. This book demands a little extra time and a little extra effort when it comes to empathizing with the characters, but it's got a lot of true things to say about our lives and times in these United States. Well worth a read. ( )
  yourotherleft | Feb 7, 2015 |
I really wanted to like this book having lived during the same time as the story in the same environment(only a bit further south in Missouri). I could relate to the church wedding, the farm, the food (lots of food in this book), and the minor characters. It was the major characters I had a bit of an issue with. I couldn't help but think at times that the author had spent a short time in a isolated rural small town as she attended a wedding, spent some time studying the faces of those present, and then went on to assume their hopes and dreams. The chapter regarding the farm foreclosure sale was really a stretch and I almost quit reading during that one. The author shows little understanding of the difficulties faced both by the local community banks and the farm families that were affected. This was a bit too much of a stereotyped anecdote.

However, as the book went along, it seemed to get more nuanced and realistic. I agree with another reviewer who said the last chapter was the best. Although set in rural Canada, I would suggest Crow Lake (Today Show Book Club #7)as another look at a rural family as they go their separate ways. ( )
  maryreinert | Aug 23, 2013 |
family saga. lots of characters. typical family relationships and drama. sad and funny! ( )
  amanaceerdh | Jun 17, 2013 |
Written as a series of short stories all involving members of the same family ins small tow Iowa. the oldest daughter marries a man that is an alcoholic. the oldest son stays in town and struggles to run his own contracting business, another son strikes it rich in the tech boom after trying grad school for awhile, and the youngest daughter is disabled from a car accident her senior year of high school. great choice for AIR 2013. this rings very true. ( )
  mojomomma | Dec 28, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 27 (next | show all)
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To everybody who is gone.
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The bride and groom had two wedding receptions: one in the basement of the Lutheran church right after the ceremony, with punch and cake and coffe and pastel mints.
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A powerful story of a single American family during the tumultuous final decades of the twentieth century. Stretching from the early 1970s in small-town Iowa to suburban Chicago to the coast of contemporary Italy-and moving through the Vietnam War's aftermath, the farm crisis, the numerous economic booms and busts-it follows the Erickson siblings as they confront prosperity and tragedy, setbacks and triumphs, and seek their place in a country whose only constant seems to be breathtaking change. Ambitious, richly told, and fiercely American, this is a vivid and moving meditation on our continual pursuit of happiness and an incisive exploration of the national character. (ARC)
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Chronicles the happiness pursuits of the Eriksons from their 1970s coming-of-age to the near-present day, in a story told from revolving viewpoints.

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