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Some Luck

(Last Hundred Years: A Family Saga #1)

3.62  ·  Rating details ·  18,731 ratings  ·  2,704 reviews
On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different yet equally remarkable children: Frank, the brilliant, stubborn first-born; Joe, whose love of animals makes him the natural heir to his family's land; Lillian, an angelic child who enters a fairy-tale marriage with a man only she will full ...more
Hardcover, 395 pages
Published October 7th 2014 by Knopf Publishing Group
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Linda Badcock Yes, I found it disappointing. I felt that I was waiting for something to happen. Of course, lots of things happened, but there was no plot. It was a …moreYes, I found it disappointing. I felt that I was waiting for something to happen. Of course, lots of things happened, but there was no plot. It was a narrative of events.(less)
Myste There are a couple over-detailed "intimate" scenes that were probably not needed (mainly the oldest boy's visit to the prostitute)... but they're more…moreThere are a couple over-detailed "intimate" scenes that were probably not needed (mainly the oldest boy's visit to the prostitute)... but they're more unpleasantly awkward and unnecessary than spicy. (less)

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Will Byrnes
There are so many elements to Some Luck, long-listed for the 2014 National Book Award, that wherever your interests may lie, there is much here from which to choose. Take your pick—a Pulitzer-winning author going for a triple in the late innings, finishing up her goal of writing novels in all forms. Take your pick—a look at 34 years of a planned hundred year scan of the USA through the eyes of a Midwest family, winning, engaging characters, seen from birth to whatever, good, bad and pffft, where ...more
Jacqueline Masumian
Jun 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
I hate to say it, but this book was a disappointment. I was a fan of Smiley's A Thousand Acres, a book that was beautifully written and clever. However, this book, the first segment in a trilogy, leaves much to be desired. The characters are nicely drawn, but they don't do anything other than go to school, perform farm chores, help Mama bake a cake, etc., etc. They are merely pleasant people. There is no protagonist in this novel, no antagonist, no conflict between (or within) characters, and no ...more
Violet wells
Dec 18, 2014 rated it it was ok
My instinct was to abandon this after 50 pages. Instead I battled onto page 440 until I simply couldn’t take the boredom any more. Maybe if you grew up on a farm in America this might interest you for its period detail and painstaking stocktaking of the hardships of farm life but I’m afraid it was of little interest to me.

I loved A Thousand Acres but this read like the left-overs of that novel. It’s incredible how complex and compelling the characters in Acres were and how dull and one dimensio
Diane S ☔
Sep 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Jane Smiley is a natural born storyteller and she writes characters that are so relatable. The Langdons are such a regular family, raising their children and farming their land in Iowa. The story starts in 1920 and everything we learn of a historical context we learn from the effect it had on the family and their community, such as the great depression, droughts when they had to fight to keep their farm going.

We hear from each family member, even the young children. Frankie was such a scamp, alw
Angela M
Sep 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
I'm just not sure how I have come this far in my reading life without have read anything by Jane Smiley until now . I'm sure this will not be my last .

This is one of those stories without major action , just ordinary people living their lives and handling what life deals them . But yet Smiley shows us that these people are extraordinary in their own way . I love these family sagas spanning a period of time because their lives are a canvas for what is happening in the country over these years. T
Andy Marr
May 05, 2020 rated it liked it
By the half-way point of this book, I was struggling to put it down. But this wasn't because I was enjoying it so much; I was simply desperate to get it out of the way and move onto something else. There were sections that I liked well enough, but given that the book was 625 pages long, this is hardly surprising. More surprising were the number of pages where almost literally nothing happened, which were given to the description of, say, crop rotation or horse breeding. I guess Smiley wanted to ...more
Tyler Goodson
May 22, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arcs
This one snuck up on me. The first volume in a trilogy that will follow 100 years in the life of the Langdon family of Denby, Iowa, we follow them now from 1920 to 1953. Each chapter contains one year in the life: from making supper to fighting a war to first love and first child, and Jane Smiley can write the beauty in the ordinary like no one else. Structurally different from anything else I've read, I felt at first like I was simply being dropped into their lives over and over again, but as I ...more
Jul 23, 2014 added it
Shelves: us-regional, audio
i have no idea what i just read it and why i read it. i kept waiting for an event, a pivot, something that would give the narrative a center. i didn't realize smiley was engaged in an exercise of postmodernist meaninglessness.

but then, this book is not ruled by meaninglessness. meaning is provided to these people's lives by: children. so: best apologia of the traditional family ever written. or worst. or middling. i don't know. i feel so cheated. this is a long fucking book. and i stuck it out
Sep 01, 2014 rated it did not like it
This is one of those books that you want to know how it ends, even the book is awful. I finished it and wondered what the point was, and why did I read it. The story is told from numerous points of view, including the babies' first person account, which I found annoying. ...more
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
There's something about Some Luck that reminded me of Richard Linklater's wonderful movie Boyhood. If you take away the technical challenge of filming the same actors over twelve years on an indie film's budget, what you have is a simple narrative structure--one child's life, told in quotidian moments, one year at a time. Some Luck is the first entry in a trilogy that follows an Iowa family from 1920 to 2019, one year per chapter. (Some Luck ends in 1953.)

In the beginning, the Langdons are a sma
Jul 02, 2014 rated it really liked it
Life from 1920 through 1953: in Some Luck, Jane Smiley has given us a multi-generational look at farm life, the life of the United States, and in some ways the world, during those decades of change.

While my initial reaction was to be unsure--why is this so fragmented? do I really care about the details of daily farming life?--I came to see the purpose of it all and to truly enjoy the story in all its parts. We begin with the young farmers, Walter and Rosanna and their first child, Frankie, the f
An Iowa farming family saga, told in chapters covering one year each, from the 1920s up to 1953. This is similar to how I can picture my grandparents' lives in the same time period. Having baby after baby. Struggling against bad weather, thriving in good. I enjoyed the audiobook and the story in general. Just a pleasant way to spend a few days. No surprises, just everyday life on the farm during that period in history. ...more
Nov 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing
When I began this I was not sure how I was going to like the format but I am so glad that I stuck with it. The transitions between characters were so smooth that it really gave it a nice easy flow. The simpleness in which this story was told reminded me of watching the Walton's on tv. Just an ordinary family going through the different stages of their lives. I loved each of the characters and am so glad that I get to continue their journey in the next novel. If your looking for a family saga you ...more
Bonnie Brody
Sep 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
Some Luck, by Jane Smiley, is the first novel in a trilogy about the Langdon family of Iowa. It encompasses the years 1920 through 1953, with each chapter covering one year in the family's life. The chapters are short and the novel is more like a log than an in-depth character study. I viewed it as a stone skipping over water. It touched on things without going into real depth.

As the novel opens, matriarch Rosanna is 20 years old and her husband Walter is 25. They have just purchased a farm in r
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
Jane Smiley is one of my favorite authors. I loved A Thousand Acres, Ten Days In The Hills, and Duplicate Keys. I have just gotten The Greenlanders and look forward to reading it.

I have just finished Some Luck, the first volume of a trilogy that traces the fortunes of an Iowa farming family. Some Luck starts in 1920 and ends in 1953. Each chapter tells the story of a year. The Langdon's live out their lives in the context of the aftermath of a world war, the Great Depression, a second world war
Smiley returns to the winning formula of her 1991 Pulitzer Prize winner, A Thousand Acres, which transplanted King Lear to an Iowan farm. Some Luck is the first volume in The Last Hundred Years trilogy, an old-fashioned saga about the Langdons, an Iowa farming family, over the century beginning in 1920. In chronological chapters, one per year from 1920 to 1953, Smiley follows this ordinary couple and their six children as they navigate America’s social changes and re-evaluate their principles du ...more
Susan (aka Just My Op)
Oct 04, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: arc-edition
When I hate a book, it is usually pretty easy to say why I hated it. When I love one, it just resonates with me, but I can't always ferret out why I loved it. This books falls into that latter situation.

Jame Smiley is a superb author. I've know this from reading some of her earlier works, and I hoped this book wouldn't let me down. Of course, it did not.

Books with a genealogy chart at the beginning, as this one has, tend to scare me off. Not so. The characters were pretty easy to keep straight,
retronerd  Steinkuehler
What happened, Jane? You used to spin a tale that was worth reading every word for content and imagery. The story lines were perfect. This year by year account was boring from page 1 and it never got better.
Feb 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2015
Some Luck opens during the flapper era jazz age, but the young Langdon family spends their time in the farm fields of Iowa, not the speakeasies of Chicago or salons of Paris. The first of Jane Smiley’s family saga trilogy, there’s one chapter for each year from 1920 to 1953, taking the story through the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl, WWII, and the early days of the Cold War.

In the beginning there’s only Rosanna and Walter, a young married couple who’ve just purchased a farm by taking on substa
A quiet visit to the small farming community of Denby, Iowa. From 1920 to 1953, the Langdon family comes into full view as we see into their home and look into what is in their hearts and minds. Victories and heartache, births and deaths. Life.
Sep 11, 2015 rated it liked it
This is a tale of a farm family living in Denby Iowa. It is a chronological multi-generational tale,spanning their lives from 1920 to 1953. At first glance, the pace is slow,almost plodding.But as the story progresses, the reader can see that this is deliberate. Family life is rarely full of high drama on a daily basis, and this is about this family's daily lives.
We are privy to the family members private thoughts as they live their lives from childhood to young adult to senior citizen. It was
Oct 16, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book is the first third of an Iowa farm family's 100 year saga. It spanned from 1920 to the mid-fifties and I was completely caught up in the yearly chapters describing births, deaths, disaster, success and failure. Smiley meshed the lives of the Langdons with lots of U.S. and world history. Wonderful style of writing with shifting points-of-view from characters of all ages. Very good read and definitely in for the next ~35 years. ...more
Aug 10, 2014 rated it really liked it
To my surprise, I absolutely loved the slower, more meditative first half of the book. Who knew that reading about oat production and plows and wells and one room schoolrooms could be so hypnotic? The rest of the book, in which some of the characters disperse around the country and the world, was just fine, but dang, I could have immersed myself in that farm for another 300 pages.
Christina Clancy
Oct 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
This is my review in the Milwaukee Journal:

There's a moment in Jane Smiley's new novel "Some Luck" when Frank, one of the more beguiling characters in a large cast, is beguiled himself by an encounter with a mysterious girl he meets at the Iowa State Fair. Later he thinks, "The whole episode just seemed like a little hard bit of a thing that was in your shoe or something. You stopped, shook it out of your shoe, and kept walking."

Smiley's ambitious book chr
Aug 24, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: edelweiss
Original review can be found at

I received an advanced readers copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!

Some Luck is one of those sleepy stories that sneaks up and grabs you. It tells the story of the Langdon family one year at a time. What starts out a little slow, gains momentum as each chapter and year goes by and before I knew it I was invested in the outcome of each family member.

It was interesting
Aug 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Cheri by: Will Byrnes
“The farm was the source of all good thing, and what you couldn’t grow or make there, you didn’t need.”

Jane Smiley’s “Some Luck,” the first in her trilogy which follows several generations of a family for one hundred years beginning in 1920. “Some Luck” begins at the family farm of Walter Langdon in Denby, Iowa in 1920, following the changes in the family, additions, moves, births and deaths, changes in farming and community, the local current events and gossip. Weather plays a significant facto
Oct 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This novel is an American marvel, as good as it gets, perfect. It is written in chronological chapters beginning in 1920 through 1953, and woven through those decades are American historical events that took place in those years. It takes place on the Langdon family farm in Iowa where the reader becomes thoroughly acquainted with the large Langdon family and other characters who, I guarantee, you will grow to love and love.

Thank goodness we have already been informed that this will be a trilogy
Not really a plot here in the sense of a beginning, middle, and end. This is just a peek into the life of an Iowa farm family and the variety of this that happen to them over the course of the years 1920 to 1953. Once I realized that this was just going to be a serious of anecdotes, and I didn't need to look for a grand plot our specific meaning, I really settled in and enjoyed watching this family grow and change.

I look forward to checking out the next two books.
Jan 07, 2015 rated it did not like it
I have listened to 1 1/2 CD's out of 12. It is tedious, trivial, and boring. Like listening to a boring person tell you every detail of their morning, etc.: I got up 6, looked out the window, got a sweater out, walked downstairs,drank a cup of coffee, etc. The characters don't seem to have any feelings much.
Need I say more? I am going to do myself a favor and not finish it.
Oct 02, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: oz-spring-2020
Setting: USA, mostly Iowa; 1920-1953. Told year by year, this is the first in a trilogy of books called The Last Hundred Years and features a family of Midwestern farmers called the Langdons.
Full of the trials and tribulations of the times and the farming life, the loves and losses of the families concerned, this is an understated but nevertheless thoroughly engrossing tale, told as it is from the points of view of the characters themselves, including interestingly on one occasion a baby.
I'm gla
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Jane Smiley is a Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist.

Born in Los Angeles, California, Smiley grew up in Webster Groves, Missouri, a suburb of St. Louis, and graduated from John Burroughs School. She obtained a A.B. at Vassar College, then earned a M.F.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Iowa. While working towards her doctorate, she also spent a year studying in Iceland as a Fulbright Scholar

Other books in the series

Last Hundred Years: A Family Saga (3 books)
  • Early Warning (Last Hundred Years: A Family Saga, #2)
  • Golden Age (Last Hundred Years: A Family Saga #3)

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