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The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson

The Year We Left Home

by Jean Thompson

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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 |
If I could give this 4 1/2 stars, I would. About 1/2 way through I was marveling at this book, and thinking maybe it was the book of the year, but the final 75pp or so flagged.

In any case, this is a wonderful multi-generational yarn, that focuses on particular family events from the early 70s to the 2000s. The characters are vivid. The events are recognizable but surprising.

The setting is Iowa (seems to be around Ames), and Thompson does a great job evoking the dutiful and plain life of the farmers, before industrialized / corporatized farming takes over.

( )
  tuke | Dec 1, 2012 |
The Year We Left Home tells the story of the Erickson family, of Grenada, Iowa, in the last twenty-five years of the last century. Beginning with the wedding reception of the oldest daughter, Anita, at the American Legion Hall, and continuing, each chapter moving forward a few years and telling a self-contained story about a different member of the family, to end, where the children are approaching fifty. Jean Thompson writes with a clarity and an absence of fuss that is a pleasure to read. Each member of the family, as well as some members of the extended family, are beautifully brought to life, from Anita with her desire to make a success of having a family to Chip, the Vietnam veteran cousin who is having some trouble settling down. There's a quiet strength to this book, with its ordinary family trying to get by in a difficult and changing world.

That said, there are some flaws that marred my enjoyment of this book. Early on, there's a silly anachronism, where the family sits down to watch a show that won't be aired for another six years, which made me wary of believing the accuracy of the background of each chapter's events. Each story is very much oriented in time and place, so that careless mistake at the beginning had me doubting the authenticity of each story's setting. There's a sense in which this book is derivative of The Corrections; although they are very different in tone, there are enough similarities in a few of the characters to make comparisons inevitable, and The Year We Left Home is the lesser book. ( )
1 vote RidgewayGirl | Sep 19, 2012 |
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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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