Some Luck by Jane Smiley, review by Shirley Wells
Best known for her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley returns to her Iowa roots in Some Luck, the first in her The Last Hundred Years Trilogy. This powerful and engrossing novel traces the lives and fortunes of the Langdon family against the backdrop of national and world events during the first half of the 20th century.
Beginning in rural 1920s Iowa, each chapter covers a single year, ending in 1953 with the country on the brink of enormous social and economic change. Each member of the Langdon family is well delineated, starting with Walter, the patriarch of the family who has just returned from WW I to his young wife Roseanna and their infant son. Both Walter and Roseanna have been raised by immigrant parents and understand the hard work, sacrifice, and luck often required to farm successfully. And in spite of some setbacks—drought, deaths, crop failure, the Depression--their family thrives. From their oldest son Frank, a brilliant, handsome, yet willful child, through the other four surviving Langdon children, we can see how each child's personality is different as we follow them from their childhoods and into their early adult years and to places far beyond Iowa. Yet the family farm remains at the heart of their lives, continually drawing them home even as their lives expand outward into the world.
Smiley's ability to draw readers into the world of her characters and to recognize the beauty in the ordinary makes Some Luck a novel you won't want to see end...and, luckily, we only have to wait for the second book in the trilogy in order to continue living vicariously through the Langdon family.