Three daughters and their husbands are pulled into a tangle of love, jealousy, and fear when their father, Larry Cook, grows too old to manage the family's fertile thousand-acre farm. As each couple struggles with their own tragedies and challenges, they know their father is judging them in light of the weighty inheritance that hovers within their reach.
The Cook family, and the farm community around them, are part of a mosaic that is as enduring as the fences and fields of the broad midwestern landscape. But this endurance exacts an immense price from them in return.
You will find that this nationally-acclaimed, breathtaking story, in a stirring narration by C. J. Critt, is an unforgettable listening experience.
©1991 Jane Smiley; (P)1996 Recorded Books
"[A] magnificent, haunting family drama, an American retelling of Shakespeare's King Lear set on a contemporary Iowa farm....a favorite choice of reading groups everywhere (it would be a natural for Oprah)." (Entertainment Weekly)
I stopped listening and will buy this book to read. The narrator was awful--she read as if the book were as simple as the characters are "supposed" to be--as if she did not have a clue about what is really inside the book she was reading. This recording is a reminder to me of how I can sometimes take the important contributions of good readers for granted!
I can see why this was a award winner, it's all the patho's of human relationships. I read it for a book group and I didn't finish it, I just quit caring. I didn't like any of the characters and they were living lives that I wouldn't wish to share for any amount of time. I didn't like Shakespeare's version any better, for what it's worth.
"There is scarcely any passion without struggle." Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus and Other Essays
The Fury of Family Fireworks
“This was the trouble with families. Like invidious doctors, they knew just where it hurt.” Arundhati Roy, The God of Small Things
Winner of the 1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the 1991 National Book Critics Circle fiction award, Jane Smiley's novel represents a robust, red-faced reworking of Shakespeare's King Lear, a family tragedy set against the bucolic Iowa farmland.
Lear here is Larry Cook, an elderly farmer who owns 1,000 acres he decides to gift to his three daughters via a business entity. The oldest daughter Ginny is thrilled, the youngest daughter Caroline, an attorney who resides a couple of hours away, thinks it's a bad idea and wants nothing to do with it, while the gesture stokes hot coals of resentment from middle daughter Rose, who claims dad sexually abused her repeatedly over many years after the girls' mom died. Thus the gift becomes a sort of molotov cocktail thrown into a huge tinderbox of incendiary family secrets.
Smiley sensitively handles the sex abuse allegations: Rose senses daddy's using this as repentance or hush money for his awful violations and wants vengeance; Ginny has repressed all memories of any abuse and tries to act as peacemaker between Rose and daddy; and, Caroline was sheltered from daddy's advances by her two sisters. Smiley deftly displays how fiery resentment can eat away at the soul of the victim, Rose, as cancer slowly consumes her body. A family fracture reaches seismic proportions between Ginny and Rose, on the one hand, and on the other Daddy and Caroline, who ironically thinks her sisters are being greedy and ungrateful after Rose lashes out at dad who thereafter seems to suffer progressive dementia.
The novel covers themes from truth, pride and generational conflict to natural justice and mental illness. Throw in adulterous sexual relations, sibling sexual rivalry, a symbolic severe thunderstorm and a blinding of a neighbor by chemical "accident" and you have a modern day Shakespearean tragedy in the land of hawkeyes, hayseeds and hotheads.
Patience is a virtue and it pays off in the telling of this story. Allow the story to lull you into its magnificent plot. I did both audio and book when it first came out--enjoyed both for different reasons. Both are superb!
Loved all--each finely drawn and well-developed!
No, a first for me...but, beautifully done!
Everyone is a favorite child...rigjht?
Love. Love. Love.
Reading allows me to travel through time; to visit the world's unique and stunning places. To become somebody I am not... It is glorious.
I picked up this book as part of a challenge I am participating in this year. I had not heard anything about it previously. I am grateful for the challenge because this is a wonderful book. Many of the reviewers complained about the drama, some admitting that they do not enjoy these type of family dramas. I disagree. Life is messy and difficult. Families treat each other with cruelty. People live behind facades so their neighbors will not see the things that are dirty, nasty and wrong. I love books that enfold slowly, building the characters quietly, exposing the secrets quietly. I love books that allow the characters to be flawed and real -- and allow the reader to like those characters even when they go to the worst places of their minds. This book gave me all of that.
I was slightly concerned about the King Lear framework -- because an author taking on Shakespeare to me is much like a pop singer taking on The Beatles. I rarely like the result. However Ms Smiley allowed her story to be quiet and nuanced. If the reader had never heard of King Lear or knew nothing about it they could still enjoy this book. And, if the reader has high expectations they can also enjoy the book.
C J Critt, though, was not a perfect choice for a narrator. At times she sounded like she was reading to children. And, at times she sounded like she was reading with a slight southern accent. She didn't have the flat tones of the midwest. For example, she didn't add the "r" to the word "wash" ("warsh"). My family are Iowans and I looked forward to those sounds. A better reader might have lifted the book from 4 stars to 5.
The lives of the Cook family on their farm form a dark yet hopeful story that brings the reader in and keeps you yearning for vigilance and restitution. It is a wonderful remembrance of the early 1980s farm political and economic impact.
To be fair I only made it halfway through, but 9 hrs into a book I expect to be hooked. Disappointed based on the other reviews. Narration was good, but the story left a lot to be desired.
I would not listen again - it is not my kind of story. The teller was good, I enjoyed her delivery, but the story was not what I thought.
I would recommend the print version, but not the audio version because the way the book is divided up.
This is Shakespeare's King Lear set on an Iowa farm in the 1980's.
A Thousand Acres is an amazing book, well worthy of the Pulitzer Prize. I read this many years ago when it first came out it print and wanted to listen to the audio version while I walked. The novel is organized into six books and 45 chapters, but for some inexplicable reason the recorded version has 13 chapters, some more than an hour long. If, like me, you have fumble fingers and don't hit the stop and start buttons on your device exactly right, you are forced to re-listen to part of the book or skip ahead and miss something. I can't think why this was done this way.
Report Inappropriate Content