Some Luck by Jane Smiley (in Chicago Tribune)

Friday, October 3, 2014

I was privileged to review this National Book Award long list selection for Printers Row Journal. The piece begins like this, below, and continues here.

Life is one thing and then another, one day and soon the next, ambition superseded by surprise, desire thwarted by the reality we didn't forecast. Sometimes we get out in front of life. Oftentimes, we don't.

So here's the question: Where, in all of this, is the plot? The conflict and the climax? The sure cause and the clear effect? The resounding resolution? Life is successive and iterative; it is not inherently themed or arced.
How audaciously delicious, then, that Jane Smiley has turned her considerable talents to a trilogy called "The Last Hundred Years" — and that she means it. One hundred years, one hundred chapters, the first 34 of which can be found in Book 1, titled "Some Luck." It's the Langdon family saga, the story of an Iowa farm and the people who inhabit it, the fences that stitch, the horizons that beckon, the love that lives in plain sight and inside a child's biscuits.

"Some Luck," simply and impossibly enough, is the story of what happens next.


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