Pulitzer Prize Winning Fiction Project discussion

A Thousand Acres

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message 1: by Angela (last edited Jan 05, 2008 01:20PM) (new)

Angela Wynne | 14 comments Author: Jane Smiley
Pulitzer Prize Winner: 1992

A simple story-family lives on and works a 1,000 acre farm that has been in the family for four generations. Father, Larry, decides to retire and leave the farm to his three daughters. Dad acts funky, daughters become concerned, family unravels, peope die, people get angry, people leave, etc. Boring, right?

Wrong!! The beauty of this story IS its simplicity. However, the characters, like real people are quite complex. They move through life vastly unaware of their motivations. Through the course of events that follow, the characters reveal themselves to Ginny (the main character and oldest daughter of Larry) in various ways. Ginny, to this point has been going through her day to day life without questioning her motivations or those within her tightly knit circle.

There is a pivotal point in the story where Ginny sees the people and things in her life for what they truly are. She does not like what she sees and decides to turn her back on the life that she has always known. In so doing, she seeks to make a life for herself-one that is hers and hers alone.

The various catastrophic events and revelations (I am not giving anything away) that lead Ginny to this point, punctuate the power that parents have over their children. That power can become lethal and suffocating when abused on so many levels.

A note on the other two sisters-Rose and Caroline---Rose's name is particularly interesting to me. She is portrayed as a very attractive woman who tends to be coarse and unsentimental(petals and thorns). Rose is completely selfish and makes no effort to conceal this fact. In the end, she may have been the only character who did understand herself. Even at the end of her life, she had no illusions about who and what she had been.

Caroline, the youngest, was seemingly detached from the family in general. She was the only sister who moved away from the farm and made a life for herself in the city. Caroline, a lawyer, moved in and out of the story and provided an interesting juxtaposition to the other two sisters.

I was interested in the book from the very first word and became more and more intrigued as I read. There were several events that were utterly shocking, but even so, I never questioned their plausability. Smiley did an excellent job of convincing me of the believablility of these characters and their actions. For one week I lived with them and watched their every move with interest and ultimately horror.

message 2: by Denise (new)

Denise | 32 comments I thought this was an excellent book and found it engrossing. I didn't hear until after I'd finished it that she based the storyline on King Lear. It was interesting to think about.

This is not a book I would read twice. It's to Smilely's credit that I felt completely flattened when I finished it. She gets tragedy.

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