A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley

Ballantine Books, 371 pages.

I don’t even know how to begin with this book. This book that is as flat as the thousand acres it is set on. So this is a modern-day, 1980’s, rural Iowa set King Lear story. A successful but now retiring farmer decides to divide his land among his 3 daughters. Things turn awry when the youngest daughter, Caroline, refuses to get into any of the farming business. Afterall, she is now a successful lawyer in Minnesota. The other 2 sisters, quick-tempered Rose and ‘yes-man’ Ginny , are both ‘tied’ to the farming business, as they are both housewives to their husbands Pete and Ty, who are both working for the farm the girls’ father /family owns.

But their father, Larry is extremely overbearing and abusive and have pretty much controlled the girls’ lives which resulted to them growing into adults with a ball of issues.

Soon, Ginny and Rose become the talk of the town when they engage in a dispute with their father over his domineering ways. They become each others’ confidante and also each others’ rivals when a family friend’s son comes back from the Vietnam war and gives both of them fresh air from their everyday farmer’s daughter/wife world.

This book is for you if you are into heavy family drama, and much into symbolisms/undertones. I can see why it is much acclaimed, and the occurances in the story are very good for discussions and forums.

But again, it’s just not for me. The narrative is average–neither poetic, nor entertainingly simple. It’s just…bland, really. Towards the end, I must admit that something in the plot made me hopeful for an exciting change. The end doesn’t disappoint, and it doesn’t impress either.

A film adaptation of this novel was done in 1998–a powerhouse cast of talent (Michelle Pfiffer, Jessica Lange, Colin Firth) .

Author Jane Smiley is a Pulitzer Prize recipient.


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