A Thousand Acres: A Novel Paperback – Dec 2 2003
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Aging Larry Cook announces his intention to turn over his 1,000-acre farm--one of the largest in Zebulon County, Iowa--to his three daughters, Caroline, Ginny and Rose. A man of harsh sensibilities, he carves Caroline out of the deal because she has the nerve to be less than enthusiastic about her father's generosity. While Larry Cook deteriorates into a pathetic drunk, his daughters are left to cope with the often grim realities of life on a family farm--from battering husbands to cutthroat lenders. In this winner of the 1991 National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, Smiley captures the essence of such a life with stark, painful detail. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
If Smiley ( Ordinary Love & Good Will ) has previously been hailed for her insight into human nature, the moral complexity of her themes and her lucid and resonant prose, her new novel is her best yet, bringing together her extraordinary talents in a story of stunning insight and impact. "Our farm and our lives seemed secure and good," says narrator Ginny Cook, looking back on the summer before her father capriciously decided to turn over his prosperous 1000-acre Iowa farm to his three daughters and their mates. That was the same summer that Jess Clark, their neighbors' prodigal son, returned after a 13-year absence, romance and peril trailing in his wake. Although Ginny's existence as a farmer's wife and caretaker of her irascible, bullying, widower father is not easy, there are compensations in her good marriage, in the close companionship of her indomitable sister Rose, who lives across the road, and in sharing vicariously in the accomplishments of their younger sister, Caroline, a lawyer. Having managed to submerge her grief at being childless, passive Ginny has also hidden a number of darker secrets in her past. These shocking events work their way out of her subconscious in the dreadful aftermath of her father's decision to rescind his legacy, shouting accusations of filial betrayal. Like Lear's daughters, the Cook sisters each reveal their true natures in events that will leave readers gasping with astonishment. Smiley powerfully evokes the unrelenting, insular world of farm life, the symbiotic relationships between a farmer and his land as well as those among the other members of the rural community. She contrasts the stringencies of nature with those of human nature: the sting of sibling rivalry, the tensions of marriage, the psychological burdens of children, the passion of lovers. Her tightly controlled prose propels tension to nearly unbearable extremes--but always within the limits of credibility. In the end, she has raised profound questions about human conduct and moral responsibility, especially about family relationships and the guilt and bitterness they can foster. BOMC selection.
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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?Read more ›
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
Most recent customer reviews
this is a powerful (and tragic) novel, and Jane Smiley writes at her best when focussing on farm families in the US. I enjoyed the unexpected twists and turns in the plotPublished 4 months ago by SueH
I, too, found the book to be something akin to a Harlequin romance. I also resent the fact that one reviewer mocked another as a "silly young girl" because he/she didn't... Read morePublished on July 16 2004
A Thousand Acres is full of surprises. Jane Smiley shows us how a family, like any other crop, can be corrupted by sins committed on the land. Read morePublished on July 13 2004 by Larry Hand
Don't like the book? That's fine. Everyone has the right to their own opinion, but before you go and start a raving review like the silly seventeen year-old girl who disliked the... Read morePublished on July 6 2004 by Prem Lee Barbosa
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. Read morePublished on May 31 2004 by JerryinChicago
I read this about 12 years ago and loved it. Smiley has a way with words. She describes anything well, whether it's her characters' thoughts, farm work or a dream. Read morePublished on May 3 2004 by Luis M. Luque
Despite my friends highly rating this book, I just couldn't get into it. I found it unconvincing with weak premises and I failed to establish a strong bond with the characters. Read morePublished on April 10 2004 by J. Jacobs
Smiley weaves a story that slowly draws you in and once hooked, it's hard to put down. The drama is subtle, in the beginning we learn about the characters and their somewhat simple... Read morePublished on March 14 2004 by Ann M. Douglas
book full of rich descriptions making you feel as if you are there. I couldn't put this book down. I do however feel that I didn't understand the dad fully and wanted to know why... Read morePublished on Feb. 25 2004 by Tonya Speelman