The backstory: Some Luck was longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award.
The basics: Some Luck, the first in a new trilogy from Jane Smiley, stretches from 1920 to 1953 and tells the story of the Langdon family, who farm in the fictional town of Denby, Iowa.
My thoughts: I'm thirty-four years old. This book covers thirty-three years. This synchronicity fascinated me as each chapter brought a new year for the Langdon family. Covering thirty-three years in just over four hundred pages means that there are many moments and events not told. As the Langdon family grows, there are more people to catch up with each year, and as the children begin to leave the home, there are more places to go to catch up with them. While the novel begins as a quiet, farm tale, covering fascinating times of transition in the 1920's and 1930's, I was surprised by how much Smiley tackles.
Some Luck spends a surprising amount of time away from the farm. While still deeply rooted in Denby, the last third of this book exemplifies how much changes in a generation, no matter where you come from. That particular thirty-three year stretch is a fascinating one, and Smiley manages to explore a number of issues, experiences, and locations through the Denby family.
Favorite passage: "But she knew this was her life. Better to be immersed in it than to see it from afar."
Audio thoughts: While I quite enjoyed this book, I found Lorelei King's narration to be uneven. She excels at using different voices for characters, and the dialogue came alive with her narration. I was particularly impressed with the subtle changes she made in characters as they grew. When the novel begins, for example, Frank is a baby (and yes, he has internal thoughts), but he slowly grows up, and King's narration slowly grows with him. As good as the dialogue performance was, I found King's narration of the prose rough and jarring. It took me awhile to get used to it (I think I listened to the opening scene five times), but once I did, I was no longer distracted. King isn't a narrator I'd seek out again, but she isn't one I'd avoid either. Particularly for dialogue-heavy books or multiple-narrator performances, she would be excellent.
The verdict: Some Luck was a riveting, fascinating read. I can't wait to read the second and third installments and see where the Langdons end up in 2020. Thankfully, this trilogy will be coming out soon, as both the second and third volumes are due out in 2015.
Rating: 4.25 out of 5
Length: 14 hours and 48 minutes (416 pages)
Publication date: October 7, 2014
Convinced? Treat yourself! Buy Some Luck from Amazon (Kindle edition.)
Want more? Visit Jane Smiley's website.
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