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A Thousand Acres Hardcover – 1991


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Product Details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Knopf (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 (155 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,076,038 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

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1 of 1 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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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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Format: Paperback
This is a book about which reasonable people obviously are going to disagree, but I found it so dull as to be a simply excrutiating read. Smiley's story of the decline of an Iowa farm family has the makings of a modern-day tragedy, perhaps, but her prose style, which dwells on innumerable tiny but insignificant details of everyday life--every vegetable in the garden, every hot dish at the social, every item in the closet of the narrator's mother, list after list of details that play no discernible role in the story--makes plowing the thousand acres of the book's title seem a lot easier than plowing through this interminable novel. For page after boring page, nothing whatever of significance happens; instead, Smiley's prose reads like an exercise in descriptive language from a creative writing class. And despite all this description, the characters of the novel remain curiously beyond our interest and seem often to act out of inexplicable whim. Such is true even of the narrator, whose most bizarre act (I won't reveal it, but it has to do with liver sausages) comes out of nowhere and ends up meaning nothing. Smiley obviously knows farming, but her writing in this novel cries out for the touch of a careful editor.
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