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An Ocean in Iowa

3.4  ·  Rating details ·  620 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
In a small town in Iowa, Scotty Ocean has announced that seven is going to be his year. It does turn out to be his year, but not quite the one he had imagined. It is the year his mother abandons the family. At first, Scotty does astonishing things to get her to return. When he realizes she won't be coming back, he decides he must replace her. And when that proves impossibl ...more
Paperback, 248 pages
Published April 28th 1999 by Touchstone (first published April 1st 1998)
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Dec 05, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone!!!
Shelves: favorites
I so hate that this book often gets overlooked because of the popularity of What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Scotty Ocean will always be one of my favorite all-time characters. Whenever I run into the occasional reader who has actually read this book, I scream, "Purple mountains majesty!!" They get it, and so will you if you read this book. You will cry and laugh at the same time while reading this book. You will cringe as you remember being in elementary school with a teacher who just doesn't get i ...more
Jamie Leach
Apr 19, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2015
no closure
Elizabeth A.
Aug 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Peter Hedges can really write--novels and screenplays and sometimes a novel that becomes a screenplay and a film--What's Eating Gilbert Grape. An Ocean in Iowa intrigued me because I lived in Iowa for 17 years and there's no "ocean." An Ocean, refers to the hero of the book, Scotty Ocean, who is turning seven and has decided that this particular year of his life is going to be a good one. But his mother has moved out. There are laughs and cries associated with this story, but I finished it and I ...more
Maureen Grigsby
Mar 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A delightful novel told through the eyes of a seven year old. Scotty Ocean's mom drinks too much, and his world is shattered when she suddenly leaves the family. His anchor gone, Scotty acts out in some rather astonishing ways, and decides that he will stay seven forever, even as that eight birthday moves closer. This is a book that reminds us how rich the inner lives of children are,a no how deeply they are affected by the choices of others.
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
What's Eating Gilbert Grape is an old favourite of mine, so when I saw this book in the opshop I jumped on it. Turns out Peter Hedges is far from prolific, and I have now read nearly the sum of all of his works. It's plain to see why; both books are so painfully personal and honest, so humble. It just isn't the kind of thing that lends itself to rapid production.

But anyways. An Ocean in Iowa had me feeling pretty skeptical for the first few pages- it seemed very generically 'bookish'. The narra
Jan 12, 2009 rated it did not like it
The author does a good job with the character's in the book. He really drew me in. I kept reading to see what was going to happen and then ... nothing did. The character's were great but the plot wasn't there. I was waiting for a climax, then all the sudden I was on the last page. Frustrating, because it could've been really good.
Dan Martin
Jun 08, 2017 rated it liked it
Not bad. It reminded a bit of Kramer vs. Kramer but told from the perspective of the kid. The story takes place in 1969 and it sometimes felt like the author was throwing in era relevant references to try and make sure the reader was always cognizant of that fact. It felt forced and, honestly, a little unnecessary. This story could've taken place at any time and the barrage of pop culture references was sometimes distracting. I get it, you know the 60's. Now, with all that out of the way, he doe ...more
H Gibson
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An easy, engaging read. The story of Scotty Ocean touched my mother's heart. I didn't want the book to end until I found a way to give this fictional little boy the hug he so desperately needed. What a great reminder to treat children with the love and respect they deserve, to never use them as pawns in our adult wars.
Feb 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Despite a rough start, I adored this book.

I may have had enough of parents abandoning their children. I cannot imagine.
d Kate dooley
Mar 10, 2017 rated it liked it
If you liked What's Eating Gilbert Grape, you'll like An Ocean in Iowa. If Gilbert were seven years old, he would be Scotty Ocean. Worth reading, but won't make it to my "read it again" shelf.
Oct 11, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
In an effort to read more of the books that have been lurking on my shelves for years, I chose An Ocean in Iowa, which I picked up at a Fort Worth Library sale, so I’ve owned it for at least a decade. Not only did I wait too long to read it, but I waited too long to write my review. It’s been almost three months since I finished the book and I don’t remember much more than enjoying the sixties’ nostalgia and feeling a sense of sadness for Scotty and his sisters. I only marked two passages, but t ...more
Jun 01, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 21, 2010 rated it liked it
3 stars

Scotty is turning seven and is very excited about it. Unfortunately, it turns out to be a terrible year for Scotty and his family. His alcoholic mother leaves him, his two older sisters, and his father. Scotty cannot seem to make and keep close friends, and he is always seeming to do the wrong things at the wrong times. Quirky, poignant, bizarre, and funny, this novel was a fairly quick snapshot into the life of a disfunctional family in Iowa during the 60s.

I enjoyed getting to know the v
Tracy Shapley
Aug 28, 2010 rated it liked it
An Ocean in Iowa is the story of Scotty Ocean, who lives in a small town in Iowa. Shortly after his 7th birthday his mother leaves his family and Scotty is left living with his sisters and father, a local Judge. Throughout the book Scotty is in denial about his mother leaving and goes to all kind of crazy extremes to make her come back.

I had been wanting to read more books that take place in the Midwest, and specifically in Iowa, where I grew up, so I had high expectations for this book. Unfortu
Jul 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Edward Burton
Feb 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book was almost eerily a mirror image of my own childhood when modern suburbs were in their infancy. Peter Hedges has such a knack for making ordinary people, the characters in his book, who generally live mundane uneventful lives magically transform by virtue of something extraordinary that comes their way. Much like his first novel, What's Eating Gilbert Grape, I soooo did not want this book to end. His references to the commercials of Santa riding the Norelco razor down snow slopes, and ...more
Jun 26, 2009 rated it really liked it
Scotty Ocean is a six year old boy growing up in Iowa in the late 1960's and early '70's. Peter Hedges does an amazing job of making Scotty "real". Scotty is a perfect example of the way a little boy sees, hears and interprets the world around him. He is just as sweet, innocent and profound as any real boy his age.
When Scotty's estranged mother came back for a visit, Scotty was sure she was going to stay forever. When Scotty woke up the next morning and found that his mother was gone,(again),
Jan 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone!!!
I so hate that this book often gets overlooked because of the popularity of What's Eating Gilbert Grape. Scotty Ocean will always be one of my favorite all-time characters. Whenever I run into the occasional reader who has actually read this book, I scream, "Purple mountains majesty!!" They get it, and so will you if you read this book. You will cry and laugh at the same time while reading this book. You will cringe as you remember being in elementary school with a teacher who just doesn't get i ...more
Kathy E.
Jul 17, 2015 rated it liked it
A few parts of this book kinda creeped me out with what little Scotty's friend, Andrew, did. It made me uncomfortable. I don't think these situations had to be part of the story...or at least, they could have been worded differently. On a whole, the book was rather sad. We see Scotty excitedly turn 7, and immediately everything goes downhill for him. Some kids can handle family stress well, but little Scotty couldn't. *I just happened to find this book while browsing our local public library and ...more
Sep 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
1969, Scott Ocean declares he is going to be seven and that "seven is going to be his year". The Ocean's live in a small Iowa suburb.

Well, it was Scotty's year, but not the one he had planned on: his mother left home; he tries everything to get her to come home, but doesn't work; he tries to replace her to no avail; and when things can't get any worse, suddenly, it's time to turn eight. He tries a drastic step to stay seven forever.

This book is sad, funny and sometimes surprising. It is hard fo
Mar 23, 2010 rated it liked it
Scotty Ocean is convinced that turning seven will be significant. It will be his special year. Instead the year turns into a nightmare with his mother first disappearing, then going to jail. Scotty doesn't want to learn how to tie his shoes, because "my mother does that"...a fairy tale he wants to recover. He spends a great deal of time acting out and looking for a mother. the story includes his two older disapproving sister, and his father, the Judge. Eight feels completely different. Reads lik ...more
Jan 03, 2009 rated it liked it
To Hedges, I am sure, this is a very significant novel, and I admire that he has taken the time to capture his childhood, and has done it so masterfully. I'm a huge fan of Hedges and am indebted to him for Gilbert, a book which enlightened me and has since stayed with me in my heart. But this, Gilbert fans, is something completely (although not altogether) different. Simply said, for us, there is little to pick up and carry from this novel. Three stars because, while I appreciate Hedges' staying ...more
Paula Martin
Mar 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
I don't know what to say about this book. The problem is, I don't really have anything really good or really bad to say about it. Mostly I just think it wasn't finished. It read like a draft. There were some very interesting themes explored in this book, but the dialogue wasn't what I expected after reading Gilbert Grape. I expected more observations and details, richer characters...this just seemed a little flat to me.
Nov 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
The author did a great job of telling the story through the eyes of a seven year old boy. His mother had s drinking problem and left her husband with 2 daughters and a seven year old boy to raise on his own. Seeing Scott's world from his point of view made the book less disturbing than if it was told from the people around him him. The story was simple and funny at times, I wish it had been a bit longer I didn't get the feeling of closure I was left feeling a bit unsettled.
May 10, 2011 rated it it was ok
try as I might, I couldn't finish this book. I had it out from the library for weeks and finally had to return it because after 111 pages, I couldn't bring myself to pick it up anymore. This book is about a young boy who turns 7 and then his mother leaves. His mother doesn't leave because he turns 7.... but she does leave. It is choppy and slow-moving.
Aug 07, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: somerville
A quirky little novel that draws you in quietly, but completely. Told from the point of view of a 7 yr old boy who most certainly wants to stay 7 forever. It is about his life and his fairly dysfunctional suburban family and how he reacts to it all. Note that this author also wrote What's Eating Gilbert Grape.
Sep 11, 2007 rated it it was ok
Shelves: disliked
This was obvioulsy a first novel. I'm glad it wasn't my first experience with this author, though, or I might not have read What's Eating Gilbert Grape. WEGG is fabulous. This is not so much. The narrator's character is hard to believe and hard to relate to. And the story goes one or two steps too far, in my opinion.
Doron Yam
Jan 08, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: modern-classics
Scotty Ocean do not want to be eight years old. After he decided that the age ofseven will be his best, it turned out to be his worst. It was so bad that he decided to not turn eight...
The story tells us about the growing pains of a child that need attention and cant get it in the late 1960's in the US.
A profile of an avarage american family...
Sep 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
A pleasant book told from the viewpoint of a 7-year-old boy growing up in Iowa in the 1960s. There were undercurrents throughout that made me think that something awful would happen, but nothing terrible happened in the end. Thoroughly enjoyable.
Andy White
Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was ok
This story is a rich explanation of what life was like being an elementary school kid in the 1960s. If you enjoy a story full of detailed descriptions this one is for you. To me the story was like a pinball machine...going here, going there, not really going anywhere.
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Peter Hedges is an American novelist, screenwriter, and film director. His novel What's Eating Gilbert Grape was adapted into a critically acclaimed movie of the same title, which launched his film career.

In 2002 he received an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for About a Boy. In the same year, he wrote and directed Pieces of April, starring Katie Holmes, which he dedicated to
More about Peter Hedges...

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“Joan and the Judge had gone to a Sunday brunch with friends. They would be home shortly, in good spirits probably, unless of course they saw their boy frozen to the mailbox.
So Claire and Maggie had no choice. They each grabbed a shoulder and hooked under an elbow and yanked suddenly without warning. Scotty brought his hands quickly to his mouth. All three stood quietly staring at the miniature pink circle of flesh still stuck on the mailbox.
"It looks like a little pizza," said Maggie without thinking.”
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