Some Luck: A novel
by Jane Smiley
Hardcover- $21.08

Longlisted for the 2014 National Book Award

From the winner of the Pulitzer Prize: a powerful, engrossing new novel—the life and times of ...

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  "This first book in the series leaves you wondering what will come in the second!" by thewanderingjew (see profile) 10/11/14

This book, the first in a series of three, covers the time period from 1920-1953, but it relates facts from earlier in the century when ancestors of the Langdon family are introduced into the storyline. Because the story goes forward for more than three decades, many major, traumatic events of the 20th century are mentioned. None are fully explored, rather they seem to be mentioned with regard to the particular character involved and dropped. Therefore, it is really difficult to know if these significant events had a profound, personal effect on the family. The first and second world wars, the drought and the dust bowl, the stock market crash, bank failures, crop failures, The Great Depression, The Holocaust, anti-Semitism, racism, the rise of Communism, the Korean War, the development of many modern inventions and industries like automobiles, indoor plumbing, electricity, air travel, air power in battles, suffrage and prohibition are all touched upon, but not explored. There were so many characters it was difficult to keep track of all of them. For that purpose, the author has included a family tree in the beginning of the book. It was also a bit difficult to figure out who was narrating each chapter.
Walter and Roseanna Langdon married young and raised their family on a farm in Iowa. They raised corn, oats, cows, chickens, and pigs. They owned two horses, Ella and Jake. Roseanna churned her own butter and sold it, candled her eggs and sold them too. She even made her own ice cream for which she was well known. It is quite possible, that in another time, with more freedom and rights, Roseanna would have made a larger impression on the world. Life, then, was a far cry from what it is today. The farmhouse had no electricity, no indoor plumbing and was cold in the winter and hot in the summer, women had just earned the right to vote and some began to have rich dreams and hopes of a broader experience.
Roseanna had 6 children, one of whom died in a childhood accident. The six are Frank, a restless and mischievous child, Joe, a bit of a whiner is a more serious individual, Mary Elizabeth, probably her mother’s favorite, Lillian, not a beauty but a charming and well behaved child, Claire, a beauty and Henry, the baby. From the beginning, the book is like a journal describing their daily life. It unfolds deliberately, and when told from the point of view of a child, it will provoke some smiles. Each successive chapter concerns itself with one year, and in the first, the reader gets a glimpse of the Langdon’s world on the farm through the eyes of five month old Frank, the first born of Roseanna and Walter. Life from the children’s viewpoint is often touched with humor, surprise and unexpected wisdom. For instance, Frank relates how he wiggles at the table but no one else does, he describes learning to read and the struggles of growing up with siblings, the first of whom was born in 1922 when he was just two years old. Mary Elizabeth describes her first efforts to walk in great detail and with a sweet innocence. The travails of sibling rivalry are front and center as we witness Frank tormenting the more docile, compliant Joe. It was a hard life, but it was a communal life with neighbor helping neighbor and children playing freely with each other on the farm.
Frankie is bullied in school, but he carefully planned his revenge and nipped it in the bud. As he grew older and entered high school, he discovered he loved learning, and at the same time he discovered the opposite sex. He was still antsy and loved to create chaos which fit in neatly with his love of learning about revolutions. World War II was right up his alley and he entered the fray. When he came home, after the war, he was a changed man in many ways, but even those changes were not explored in depth.
As Roseanna continues to bear children, the times changed; from delivering a baby at home on her own, to her last one, Henry, who was born in a hospital, she experienced the ups and downs of joy and then post partum depression. It was worthy to note that in her younger days, breast feeding was frowned upon and a lengthy hospital stay and period of recuperation was thought necessary for the new mother. The worm has certainly turned today. The book really does illustrate the changing times from war to war, invention to invention, year to year. Even the housing industry changed, and people began to cherish their own homes. After the war, affordable communities began to spring up with many accoutrements to make life better. The suburbs were born. When the book ends, the reader will come to the conclusion that one generation has ended, and the next one will be explored in the second of what is to be a three part series.
As an aside, there were several nostalgic points for me in the story. I once lived in a Levitt home. My mother lived in Floral Park, NY, there was an oma and an opa in the family which is what my grandkids call my husband and me and when my sister wanted to impress people, like if we were standing on line some place, she would turn to me and pretend she was speaking French. With a serious face she would say, in a question, Chevrolet Coupe? So, while this novel wasn’t as magnetic as I would have hoped, it certainly moved me. Perhaps in the next book, the characters will be more enriched and developed.

  "" by nancyrae (see profile) 03/05/15

  "Some Luck" by paydun (see profile) 03/24/15

Jane Smiley's latest novel is a circuitous presentation of farm life and a budding family's adaptation to the changes of the 20th Century, changes that challenge an agrarian existence. The pace is measured, the primary protagonist, Frankie, the catalist for the family's entry into the modern era.

  "First Jane Smiley book I\\\'ve read" by jfwalters (see profile) 03/25/15

I read this book and truly enjoyed it. Keep in mind it\\\'s the first of a trilogy. The second book is due out in May. Each chapter is numbered sequentially in years and follows the Langdon family. I believe the trilogy covers 100 years. Great character development and beautifully written. Can\\\'t wait for the next one!

  "Some Luck" by ncvlib (see profile) 04/08/15

Our book club had very mixed feelings about the book which is why I gave it three stars. Some members thought it was interesting while others thought it was slow. Her previous books have been some of our favorites.

  "Some Luck" by nanovsky (see profile) 04/22/15

We get an excellent overview of life on a farm and how it changes through the years with the new technologies. Characters are well drawn and we look forward to the next 30 years.

  "Some luck by Jane Smiley" by tina55 (see profile) 02/23/16

The book club came to the conclusion that for the first 1/2 of the book, the read was informative and good to read. Once the older children began to grow up, the book became a slower read for most of us and was harder to stay with. We all finished it, a couple enjoyed the whole book, but for most of it we finished, feeling left down at the ending.

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