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A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
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A Thousand Acres

by Jane Smiley

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,3481151,345 (3.71)346
Dark truths and long-suppressed emotions come to the surface in 1979 when a successful Iowa farmer decides to cut one of his daughters out of his will.
  1. 80
    King Lear by William Shakespeare (browner56)
    browner56: The original and a modern retelling of a powerful story involving some very strong women
  2. 10
    Plainsong by Kent Haruf (lyzadanger)
    lyzadanger: Similar treatment of broad-open landscapes and middle American family values.
  3. 00
    Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (sturlington)
  4. 00
    The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner (kjgormley)
    kjgormley: They are both King Lear retellings.
  5. 01
    We Were the Mulvaneys by Joyce Carol Oates (AlisonY)
    AlisonY: Similarities in terms of relationships that breakdown between families. Both are like watching a car crash in slow motion.
  6. 01
    1606 : William Shakespeare and the year of Lear by James Shapiro (amarie)
    amarie: Insight into King Lear source and everything else happening that year.
1990s (31)
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» See also 346 mentions

English (111)  French (2)  Swedish (1)  All languages (114)
Showing 1-5 of 111 (next | show all)
"King Lear" among Iowan farmers is more than a gimmick. Smiley's version of the old tale not only sheds light on the less developed characters of Shakespeare's story but is a fascinating character study of its own. The novel's world is believable, exciting and well-constructed. ( )
  missjudgment | May 19, 2020 |
Trashy Trashy Trashy. I never would have picked this up on my own, but won't disclose the party responsible for recommending it.
  reg_lt | Feb 7, 2020 |
So many ways for a person to be measured; by the acreage they farm, by the cleanliness of the vinyl flooring, by the size of a mortgage, by the ability to keep up appearances at any private cost. A remarkable and unsentimental exploration of a family's and farm's measurement. ( )
  77nanci | Nov 17, 2019 |
This was a tremendous read with incredible characters and a vivid sense of place. Coming from a country background I've seen first-hand how the question of farm inheritance (who? when? how?) can be so difficult to navigate smoothly, between sibling jealousies and parental inabilities to let go of the reins. It's a fantastic plot base for a novel, and Smiley handles so deftly the repeated misunderstandings and horrific family skeletons in the closet that gradually seep under the doors of the families involved like filthy rising water, soaking into every aspect of their daily lives until everything is rotten.

Much too great a book for me to ever have a hope of doing it justice in a review, so I'll leave it there.

4.5 stars - gripping and much deserved of it's Pulitzer award. ( )
  AlisonY | Oct 6, 2019 |
Three daughters in the Midwest. Barren, beautiful tale. One suffers from being raped by her father. Very worthy.
  JoshSapan | May 29, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 111 (next | show all)
Does this sound familiar?

At the opening of Jane Smiley's latest novel, "A Thousand Acres," the narrator, a woman named Virginia Cook Smith, describes the farm in Zebulon County, Iowa, that she and her two younger sisters, Rose and Caroline, have grown up on: "Paid for, no encumbrances, as flat and fertile, black, friable and exposed as any piece of land on the face of the earth."

And then comes the shock of recognition. In 1979, the three sisters' father, Laurence (Larry) Cook, decides to form a corporation out of his farm holdings and give each of his daughters a third of it. What do they think of the plan? "It's a good idea," says the oldest, who is called Ginny. "It's a great idea," says the second daughter, Rose. "I don't know," says the youngest, Caroline, who is a lawyer.

"You don't want it, my girl, you're out," says Larry to Caroline. "It's as simple as that." So the farm is divided into two instead of three, with Ginny and Rose to take turns looking after Larry. And a tragedy of ingratitude, madness and generational conflict begins. . . .
 

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Epigraph
The body repeats the landscape. They are the source of each other and create each other. We were marked by the seasonal body of earth, by the terrible migrations of people, by the swift turn of a century, verging on change never before experienced on this greening planet.

-- Meridel Le Sueur, "The Ancient People and the Newly Come"
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To Steve, as simple as that
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At sixty miles per hour, you could pass our farm in a minute, on County Road 686, which ran due north into the T intersection at Cabot Street Road.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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