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Early Warning

(Last Hundred Years: A Family Saga #2)

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  6,314 ratings  ·  852 reviews
From the Pulitzer Prize winner: a journey through mid-century America, as lived by the extraordinary Langdon family we first met in Some Luck, a national best seller published to rave reviews from coast to coast.

Early Warning opens in 1953 with the Langdons at a crossroads. Their stalwart patriarch Walter, who with his wife had sustained their Iowa farm for three decades,
Hardcover, 476 pages
Published April 28th 2015 by Knopf (first published April 23rd 2015)
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Steve Petherbridge Yes, I would read them in order and close together. Also, keep a bookmark on the pages with the family tree at the beginning of the book for referring…moreYes, I would read them in order and close together. Also, keep a bookmark on the pages with the family tree at the beginning of the book for referring to as you read it. Some readers had problems following the myriad of characters! They're well written books, but, not beach reading light blurb-lit. for between the pina colladas! HBO TV serial beckoning?(less)
Diane Minnie and Lois are sisters, and originally Joe hoped to marry Minnie, but she wasn't interested. When Joe and Lois marry , he moves into the large…moreMinnie and Lois are sisters, and originally Joe hoped to marry Minnie, but she wasn't interested. When Joe and Lois marry , he moves into the large family house that Lois and Minnie previously shared, and Minnie simply stays on. She remains unmarried and works at first as a teacher, later as an administrator.(less)

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3.84  · 
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 ·  6,314 ratings  ·  852 reviews

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Mar 24, 2015 rated it liked it
The problem with writing a series that tracks a family over successive generations is that your characters tend to multiply, and it gets harder and harder to make each new person as persuasive and realized a human. But the necessity of giving everyone screen time means that many of the characters that readers of the first book know and love are crowded out or pushed into the background.
The episodic structure continues to work well, and there are lots of things to like about this book, but it a
May 10, 2015 rated it really liked it
My “early warning” came in the first chapter of Jane Smiley’s second volume of the Last Hundred Years trilogy when I could scarcely keep track of the characters. Everyone had gathered for the funeral of Walter Langdon, who died abruptly at the end of “Some Luck,” a ripe opportunity to re-introduce the family members we knew and to meet the first of the third generation. Once the group dispersed, it was a bit easier to keep the who’s who straight, but then the family kept multiplying.

“Early Warn
Dana DesJardins
May 27, 2015 rated it it was ok
After Some Luck, I chafed to wait for the further installment of what I hoped would be a family story of depth and heart. Instead, I got an episodic death march through the decades, with no character development, and historic events exploding along the periphery like a trailer for Forrest Gump. The musings about farmland, the cycle of nature, the growth of hedgerows and babies that enlivened and made human the events in the first book are missing here, as the second generation has moved off the ...more
Mary Lins
Feb 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: complete
"Early Warning", is just as enjoyable and well written as Jane Smiley's first book in the Last Hundred Years Trilogy, "Some Luck". As with the first, I appreciated the one-year-per-chapter pace of this story of the Langdon family from 1953 to 1986. In the first book, the Langdon farm was the centerpiece of both setting and action, but the post-WWII time frame of "Early Warning" follows the progression of the US from the farms into the cities as the returning soldiers start families and enter bus ...more
(Sequel to Some Luck.) This second book covers 1953 to 1986. The family loses one member to Vietnam, one to cancer, and one to the easiest, simplest death you could imagine. There’s a shotgun wedding, a divorce, and several affairs. In short, it feels like a real family, like your family. Events seem arbitrary at the time but later take on the cast of inevitability. Historical landmarks are there as background information, not as clichéd points of action (a good example is the JFK assassination) ...more
“If you lived in the same place long enough, everything reminded you of everything else.”

“Early Warning” begins where “Some Luck” left off, 1953, family gathers for the funeral of the family patriarch. As I began the second in Jane Smiley’s trilogy, I thought momentarily that it would be a good idea to have made a poster size family tree of the family, their children, and perhaps a brief note about some characters. With the funeral, it’s easy to be reminded right off that your most difficult tas
May 17, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: in-my-life
Early Warning covers the years 1953-1986. The second generation of the Langdon family is now in their sixties and the third and fourth generations are making a much larger appearance. I love how these books move the family's stories forward by devoting each chapter to a specific year. In doing so, Smiley showcases the highlights (or low lights in some cases) of not only the family members, but the current world events of the time.

Moving, joyful, sorrowful and still surprising, this was a great
Mar 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
The second book in the Langdon family trilogy isn't quite as sharp as the first one, but still compelling. It takes some time to get used to the growing cast of characters as the family expands, but Smiley provides a helpful family tree. She ends the book with the Langdons in the 1980s--I can't wait for the third book, which will come out later this year. I admit she had me in tears near the end.
3.5 Stars

I didn't enjoy this quite as much as the first one. It kind of felt more haphazard. But, at the same time, I think that is necessary to convey the Langdon family as it begins to spread out from the main family core.

I did enjoy how current events were intertwined withing the Langdon Family Saga.
Aug 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Not your usual family saga. Year by year, the best and the worst of the family stories. Constantly engaging, disturbing, moving, and thought-provoking. A classic. A masterpiece.
May 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Back in the fall, I compared Jane Smiley's Some Luck, the first volume in The Last Hundred Years trilogy, to a fat album of family photos. The book spanned 1920 to 1953, and each chapter was a snapshot of a year in the life of Iowa farmer Walter Langdon, his wife Rosanna and their five children. The shifting perspective -- sometimes close-up, sometimes wide-angle -- made for a saga both epic and intimate. I liked it very much. Ditto for the second book, Early Warning (Knopf Doubleday, digital ga ...more
Liz Beazizo
May 10, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I usually don't write reviews, but Smiley's writing is amazing. I loved the pacing and the character development over the course of the two novels. The story could be any family history but her deft touches of character and their relation to events in America create a portrait with depth and veridity.I plan to read the both the firts and second books again when the third is released to enjoy the flow.
May 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Fantastic continuation of this family saga. Smiley has an uncanny ability to select an enchanting combination of mundane, unusual and puzzling moments in time that, over the course of the book, cohere to become a complete picture of a sprawling family.
Nancy Brisson
May 28, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Early Warning follows Some Luck as Book two in Jane Smiley’s planned trilogy, a trio of books that follows a farm family, the Langdons, and their offspring through an entire century. In fact this bucolic verbal tryptic is called The Last Hundred Years Trilogy. As more and more offspring choose to leave the farm, the lives of the Langdon offspring obviously become less and less rural.
Walter and Rosanna are the founders of this Midwestern dynasty and the offspring become so numerous that it become
Jul 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This second book of Jane Smiley's trilogy was much more interesting to me and I read it twice as fast as I did Some Luck. This is certainly because the book takes place during the first 35 years of my life. I was fascinated to see which events Ms. Smiley chose as important in her continuing saga of the 20th Century, as well as which children and grandchildren of Rosanna and Walter Langdon she placed into which events. As in the first book, Ms. Smiley does not give the reader one character to lov ...more
Chris Witkowski
Jun 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
In the second book of the author's Last Hundred Years trilogy, Smiley spins an absolutely masterful tale, continuing the story of the Langdon/Vogel families begun in Some Luck. Sprawling doesn't even begin to describe the cast of characters; thank heavens there is a genealogical chart in the front of the book to help me keep track of who's who.

I enjoyed the first novel, Some Luck,set in Iowa farm country, which tells the early story of the family, beginning after WW1, continuing to 1952. So def
(Lonestarlibrarian) Keddy Ann Outlaw
If only I could have read Early Warning directly following Some Luck, the first in Smiley's family saga (which I loved)... Then I could have kept the characters straight! Instead, I flipped back to the Langdon family genealogical chart provided in the front of the book. Ultimately I had to add a Post-It note, I was consulting it so often. Marching year by year from 1953 to 1985, of course the family multiplies and new characters are introduced. (This structure reminded me a little of family Chri ...more
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it
"The problem [no one has solved] or even [knows] existed, was how quickly it passed, every joke, every embrace, every babyhood and childhood, every moment of thinking that [we have] things figured out for good..."

This fact is shown through this history of the Langdon/Vogel family from 1953 - 1986. Each chapter is a year; each year contains anecdotes about the elders, the parents, the children of this family. From their farm in Iowa, the family has scattered: some remain farmers, while others ser
Justin Neville
Sep 03, 2015 rated it liked it
I found this disappointing compared to the first volume in this family saga trilogy.

I had felt somewhat invested in the characters in the first book and she kept my attention. In this book, my mind wandered frequently and I was far from gripped.

To an extent, with a family saga, as you go through the generations, the characters multiply and, unless you narrow your focus or make the personalities clearly distinguishable from one another and compelling, it becomes easier to lose track of who's who.
Kathryn Bashaar
May 05, 2015 rated it it was ok
I've loved some of Smiley's work, but I was disappointed in this book. Like the first book in the series, Some Luck, Smiley covers too many characters too thinly. I didn't really care about any of them, because I didn't feel like I knew much about their motivations and inner lives. A lot of what they did just seemed random. And it annoyed me that almost all of them are rich in this book. If you're telling the story of the 20th century family, the rise of the middle class is the real story. She s ...more
Jun 15, 2015 rated it it was ok
Maybe because I haven't read Some Luck, I was continually confused by the author's style, using the device of giving a minute snapshot of one character after another, experiencing some brief moment in life. I assume if I continued reading, the overall plot would emerge. But, after a third of the book, I was still confused by the laundry list of people involved ("Now, WHO is this?" as I constantly flipped to the family tree in the front) as I waited to care about these folks and their daily activ ...more
Karin Slaughter
Sep 05, 2015 rated it really liked it
Classic Smiley. Must be read in order, though.
Oct 15, 2015 rated it really liked it

This is going to be a dual review covering the first two volumes of Jane Smiley's Last Hundred Years Trilogy. I read the first volume in August and the second one about two weeks ago. Just to be clear, Jane Smiley is one of my favorite authors and though I have not read every one of her novels, I have never been disappointed with any I have read.

Some Luck is the first and centers around an American farming family from Iowa beginning in 1920. The trilogy will span a century. This one ends in 1952
Renee Gimelli
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
The multiplication of characters is challenging, but my interest is multiplied as well.
Debbie Sweeney
Mar 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
I loved this book as much as the first one. So quiet with so much bubbling beneath the surface. I look forward to #3-and sadly, the final one.
Mar 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5/5 stars. Part II of Jane Smiley’s “The Last Hundred Years” trilogy, which takes much longer to get going now that the Langdon children from Part I have kids of their own. The family tree at the front of the book is a necessity this time around, particularly since Smiley’s structure of each chapter encompassing a year-in-the-life means we spend less time with each member of this growing family. It doesn’t help that Smiley’s matter-of-fact writing style — an asset in works like A THOUSAND ACRE ...more
Robert Blumenthal
Jun 26, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This is the second of a three-part trilogy of the past 100 years of the life of a particular family from Iowa and their descendents. This follows the clan, starting in the year 1953 and ending in the late 1980s. There is a large cast of characters and the author provides a family tree to help keep track of them all. I referred to it often in the first few chapters, and it did take me a while to figure out who the characters were. Each chapter is a year in their lives in successive order. In most ...more
Feb 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
continued the charm of Some Luck. like other reviewers, it took me a few beats to remind myself who was who, but once it came back i was all in. i love the idea behind this project - the first novel focuses on the nuclear langdons, but this one spreads out and adds in more perspectives of spouses and kids. the family tree and all the comings and goings can feel overwhelming, but isn't that reality? smiley smartly doesn't give everyone a voice, nor does she focus only on the major life events - s ...more
Maya Lang
Dec 24, 2015 rated it really liked it
I've often thought while reading Jane Smiley that I could read her forever. She creates a universe (truly, a universe) you want to reside in, whose characters you wish to stay with. This trilogy tests that theory, and while I loved Some Luck, the first in the series, I wasn't wild about this one. Is it fascinating to see what becomes of Frank and Joe, Rosanna and Henry and Claire? Absolutely. But the characters pile up like too many dishes at a buffet. I read this right after Some Luck. Still, I ...more
Jul 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am mad at myself for racing through the first two books of this trilogy, because now they are over and I miss them, but I loved them and couldn't put them down. I will certainly order them in hardcover to savor and return to when the third one comes out. The similarities to the Gilead trilogy are only general, but notable(family stories, Iowa, and in the form of a trilogy). This one also made me think about Billy Joel's We Didn't Start the Fire several times, as it goes through recent history ...more
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21st Century Lite...: Some Luck - Early Warning (June 2015) 23 47 Nov 28, 2015 09:00PM  
Reading Along Wit...: Jane Smiley, “Early Warning” 1 20 Apr 22, 2015 05:37AM  

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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)
  • Some Luck (Last Hundred Years: A Family Saga, #1)
  • Golden Age (Last Hundred Years: A Family Saga #3)
“The best that can happen to a girl, Claire, is to be a bit plain, like you. You think I’m being unkind, but I am telling you a truth. A plain girl has a longer time to herself, and when a man falls in love with her, he loves her for herself, for who she is.” 3 likes
“Who you are shapes how you are loved.” 2 likes
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