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A Thousand Acres Hardcover – 1991

156 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Incorporated; First Edition edition (1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394577736
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394577739
  • Product Dimensions: 3.8 x 16.5 x 24.1 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 794 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (156 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #542,901 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Donald Mitchell #1 HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Nov. 4 2006
Format: Paperback
Most modern novels fail to surprise me. They telegraph where they are going in such obvious ways that I often feel I could write the next chapters and the ending before I read them. Jane Smiley in A Thousand Acres also telegraphs a lot . . . but underneath those obvious road signs, she's built a more powerful message for those who care to read between the lines. Although most people don't want to read a book as long and as dark as this one, it's well worth your while. The character and plot developments display an amazing set of symmetries that are works of genius.

Those who will love this book the most are people who know farm life in the American Middle West well. Having had a grandfather, father and several uncles who were farmers in Illinois raising lots of corn and hogs, I was first impressed by how well Ms. Smiley captured the attitudes, experiences, psychology and perspectives of the American family farmer during the 1930s through the 1980s. I felt like I was reading the history of my own family for about the first third of the book.

Then, she powerfully shifts the ground as the patriarch of the family, Larry Cook, decides to cede control over the family farm to avoid estate taxes. From there, a superficial reading will see this as a modern version of King Lear. I think that obvious parallel is not an accurate view of the book. Instead, this book takes on the qualities of a Greek tragedy as the characters move inexorably towards their preordained fates. What's the source of the tragedy? It's the pride of the American family farmer who lusts for more land and production.

In fact, this book could have been titled "Life Drains Away" as the forces set into action by the characters create an ironic threat to some of the same characters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Plume45 on April 14 2003
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It is the 1970's and a successful farmer has suddenly announced that he will endow his thousand-acre holding, built up over several generations, to his three daughters. The rural Iowa community is stunned by the news; his irrascible neighbor is immediately suspicious and blantaly critical, while the amazed girls react to the unexpected windfall variously. Rose and her husband are delighted and grateful; Ginny is unsure what her father's decision portends for her and her husband, but is willing to go along. While Caroline--the only one who has managed to escape farm life, and Daddy, flatly refuses any share in this agrarian legacy.
Speculation is rampant about what tyrrancial Larry Cook--never known for his generosity or paternal affection--is up to now. But local imagination pales beside the narrator's gradual revelation of the sisters' dark past. As the fertile acres change hands and then are disupted in court, two husbands watch helplessly as the Cook girls' painful, shameful secrets eke out into the light of family knowledge--released from long buried furor, disgust and outright denial. Could the gift represent hush land to assuage a guilty conscience? How to appear calm and normal despite the prying eyes and busy tongues of their neighbors? Add to this volatile mix the return of a native son, whose arrival sparks infidelity and jealousy, and readers have a tasty menu of seething passions on the prairie.
Three women cope with qustionable success to survive their childhood and carve out their own future which their vicious father tried to manipulate for them. Is there no escape or refuge for sanity as sibling loyalty crumbles? Does insanity lurk beneath the surface, just like the poisoned well water which caused 5 miscarriages and possbily Cancer?
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Format: Paperback
On a thousand-acre ranch in Iowa, a family compound of three farmhouses in close proximity to one another contains an aging father and two of his three daughters, along with their families.

Homey habits of family get-togethers and church picnics characterize their lives. But beneath the seemingly placid surface, family secrets, rivalries and betrayals lurk. When the patriarch makes an unexpected decision to set up a corporation and hand everything over to his
daughters, emotions are unleashed and a maelstrom of turbulence ensues.

Once the plans are set in motion, one of the daughters balks -- soon there is a court case, with family members pitted against one another. And the father, who orchestrated events, is revealed as an angry, bitter tyrant. Then one of the daughters discloses to her sister the deep, dark secret that has informed most of her actions in adulthood.

Nothing will ever be the same again on these one thousand acres...

A Thousand Acres: A Novel is a multifaceted dysfunctional family portrait...compellingly wrought by this award-winning author.

By Laurel-Rain Snow, Author of Web of Tyranny
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By A Customer on July 16 2004
Format: Paperback
One reviewer mentioned the large amount of detail that is in the novel. I thought the detail an interesting way to have the reader's experience mirror the characters'. Ginny's life was made up of what was in the garden, her memories of her mother, what she cooked for dinner... This is what filled her day to day and this is what she lived. In allowing yourself (as a reader) to be contentedly absorbed in the details without looking for deeper meaning was exactly what Ginny had been doing her whole life. By the time the novel began to shift from this complacent routine (which the reader begins to assume as well), you find yourself wondering how the characters can solve this in order to bring everyone (including the reader) "back" to that previous place of predictable actions and relative emotional comfort that we all want, all the while knowing that it will not happen due to the gravity of the situations that become exposed and are evolving. As for characters acting "out of character", the novel is about secrets, rage, and discovery of what is really motivating people who are supposed to be family and friends. The whole theme of the book was that people in our lives are not always who they seem or we choose not to see them for who they are. The fact that Smiley mirrors that as well in the readers' experiences' with the characters in that some of their actions and revelations are surprising or unanticipated, I thought, was very clever. Just as Ginny had trouble understanding who she could trust (including herself), we as readers had to decide which characters, if any, to trust, pity, or hate - and did we trust our own opinions and judgments of them? If we flipped through our memories of the characters, were their actions and reactions explainable or were our previous impressions wrong? These were the same questions Ginny was asking- we follow Ginny's emotional journey in the style of the writing in the novel.
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