• A Thousand Acres

  • By: Jane Smiley
  • Narrated by: C. J. Critt
  • Length: 14 hrs and 48 mins
  • 3.9 out of 5 stars (582 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, Jane Smiley's spellbinding novel also headed best-seller lists for many months. A Thousand Acres is the powerful, mythic story of an American farm family and the land that nourishes and consumes its members.

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

Critic Reviews

  • Pulitzer Prize winner, Fiction, 1992
  • National Book Critics Circle Award, Fiction, 1991


"[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)

What listeners say about A Thousand Acres

Average Customer Ratings
Overall
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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    227
  • 4 Stars
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    118
  • 2 Stars
    32
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Performance
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    135
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    85
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    37
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Story
  • 4 out of 5 stars
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    189
  • 4 Stars
    148
  • 3 Stars
    86
  • 2 Stars
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    26

Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars

good book bad reader

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!

42 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A great read.

What did you love best about A Thousand Acres?

There were so many good things about this book...the characters and their development, the details that made you feel like you were right there, the unveiling of relationships, the contrast points to King Lear...and the narration.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Ginny was my favorite, although I liked her more in the beginning than the end. Her self discovery was surprising and amazing. It made me like the characters with their flaws.

What does C. J. Critt bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

This was read so well, I don't know how she accomplished it! With so many different people to play, her voice managed to give faces to them all. She gave weight to small things, didn't overdramatize the heavy moments. When playing Larry, she made him so mean and threatening, it was visual. She is an amazing reader.

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

No, not all at once.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

King Lear set on an Iowa farm.

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.

10 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Narrator impossible for me to listen to

the story did not capture me and the narrator's voice was irritating. I will try reading the book myself.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Brilliant modern re-telling of King Lear!

Would you consider the audio edition of A Thousand Acres to be better than the print version?

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!

Who was your favorite character and why?

Loved all--each finely drawn and well-developed!

Have you listened to any of C. J. Critt’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

No, a first for me...but, beautifully done!

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Everyone is a favorite child...rigjht?

Any additional comments?

Love. Love. Love.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

A canonical classic

A powerful American story. And a tragic one. Profoundly and powerfully written. A bit of a feminist Faulkner retelling of King Lear. I first read this in my 20s, and the Audible version connected with me differently... perhaps as a "true" adult, I better understand the idea of connection/pain between Land & Family & Family Secrets....

Don't understand the criticism of the narrator. She was perfect for this book.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Still a tragedy.

I kept hoping for a less than tragic finale. Difficult to watch family disorder.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

Oh Thou art so depressing...

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.

5 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

It's a hard, complicated life on a Thousand Acres

The details of farming and struggles over the decades of rural life are sharp and at times disturbing yet real.

  • Overall
    1 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    1 out of 5 stars

uhhhh...

idk if the author doesn't understand the King Lear or consent/rape but drawing a comparison to the two stories makes me ill