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A Thousand Acres

by Jane Smiley

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,7051321,441 (3.71)395
A successful Iowa farmer decides to divide his farm between his three daughters. When the youngest objects, she is cut out of his will. This sets off a chain of events that brings dark truths to light and explodes long-suppressed emotions. An ambitious reimagining of Shakespeare's King Lear cast upon a typical American community in the late twentieth century, A Thousand Acres takes on themes of truth, justice, love, and pride, and reveals the beautiful yet treacherous topography of humanity.… (more)
  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
    The Year of Lear: Shakespeare in 1606 by James Shapiro (amarie)
    amarie: Insight into King Lear source and everything else happening that year.
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English (126)  French (2)  Swedish (1)  All languages (129)
Showing 1-5 of 126 (next | show all)
Slow.......but good. ( )
  ShanLand | Feb 28, 2022 |
The retelling of King Lear. This is a story set in the heartland and features a farm family in Iowa. The father of 3 daughters decides to incorporate the farm and give to his daughter's ownership. This is the impetus of everything going awry. Its a great story, retelling that incorporates the historical aspects of farming turning into large industrial farms, loss of the family farm, poor management and disregard of the environment for profit. It's also a hotbed of family dysfunction. Worthy of the pulitzer in my opinion. ( )
  Kristelh | Jan 16, 2022 |
good book, i guess. It's not my sort of book, but it's there and it exists.

reminds me of that Tolstoy story...about the land...and the guy who wants a lot of land... ( )
  ennuiprayer | Jan 14, 2022 |
I enjoyed this book for the quality of the writing. The story is sad. The thousand acres of farmland is a metaphor for the vast spaces between each member of the family, and the dark acres of the human heart within a family. It tells about how passion can go so terribly wrong, just like the land that eventually fails or falls short of expectations.

The quote at the beginning of the book summarizes this well:

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" ( )
  CarolBurrows | Aug 1, 2021 |
A Thousand Acres (Flamingo Originals) by Jane Smiley (1992) ( )
  arosoff | Jul 11, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 126 (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"
Dedication
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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Wikipedia in English (1)

A successful Iowa farmer decides to divide his farm between his three daughters. When the youngest objects, she is cut out of his will. This sets off a chain of events that brings dark truths to light and explodes long-suppressed emotions. An ambitious reimagining of Shakespeare's King Lear cast upon a typical American community in the late twentieth century, A Thousand Acres takes on themes of truth, justice, love, and pride, and reveals the beautiful yet treacherous topography of humanity.

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