Angela's Reviews > The Year We Left Home

The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson
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's review
May 05, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: first-reads, fiction

This was the first Goodreads giveaway that I won and it did not disappoint.

Jean Thompson created a wonderfully quiet and subtle work with The Year We Left Home. She draws you seamlessly into the characters and the place. The story has a rather unassuming beginning: Iowa in winter, a wedding, two cousins getting high in a truck.

"He wished he was out there right now, in some desert, instead of smack in the middle of his family, who, because they knew his origins and his history, thought they knew everything about him."

I grew up in a rural area similar to the one in the book and I have experienced this dynamic. There is a friction between people who stay and people who leave (or long to leave) that Thompson captures in all its nuances.

It's not a very long book. I think brevity serves the story well. The language is direct, evocative without being weighty:

"It felt like neither of them ever quit working. They could barely keep three kids on two salaries when his parents had raised four on his dad's job alone. The math of the world had got screwed up somehow."

You only get snippets of the characters and their lives through the years, but Thompson is able to demonstrate the complexity of their relationships. By the end, you've experienced the push and pull that a family goes through as its members grow up, grow old and die. There is a nice balance to the story that leaves you satisfied with its conclusion even if there is no resolution.

I feel bad for books like this because despite being brilliant and moving in their own way, it's so easy to brush them off as boring and depressing. The Year We Left Home focuses on the everyday stuff of life. There are heartbreaks and accidents and tragedies but these are only alluded to in terms of the characters' present circumstances. This book is not going to blow your socks off with drama, but you will find yourself sinking into it, captivated, during the quiet parts of the day.

As others have mentioned, there are quite a few typos in the ARC edition. Hopefully those were sorted out for the actual release!
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Reading Progress

May 5, 2011 – Shelved
May 6, 2011 – Shelved as: first-reads
May 20, 2011 – Started Reading
May 23, 2011 –
page 40
May 23, 2011 –
page 86
May 24, 2011 –
page 125
May 25, 2011 –
page 200
May 26, 2011 –
page 290
May 26, 2011 – Finished Reading
October 7, 2016 – Shelved as: fiction

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