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A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley
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Nov 15, 2011

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Read in November, 2011

This is a story about a farming community in Iowa during the late 1970’s. Traditionally, the farms have been handed down from generation and generation. Jess Clark, returns after a thirteen years absence and his father, Harold, welcomes him back. His influence on the main characters is felt throughout the story. In the Cook family, the two older sisters, Ginny and Rose, married and stayed on the farm while their younger sister, Caroline, moved to the city. Their father, Larry Cook, is a good farmer but very much a patriarch. His two oldest daughters, and their farmer husbands have learned, each in their own way, how to deal with him and his moods. In a surprise move, he signs the farm over to his daughters although Caroline refuses to be involved. Soon Larry’s traditional farming practices clash with the optimistic and innovative ideas and dreams of his children and their husbands. There are disastrous results and life changes not only for the Cook family but also for other families in the community. Of course, there are “skeletons in the Cook family closet” which are revealed as the story unfolds. The book incorporates many lines of thought; family dynamics, financial wisdom, environmental issues, and health issues, both mental and physical. In the beginning, I found it to be a slow moving book but as I read on, it became more interesting.
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