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A Thousand Acres

by

A Thousand Acres Cover

 

Awards

1992 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction
2006 PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

A successful Iowa farmer decides to divide his farm between his three daughters. When the youngest objects, she is cut out of his will. This sets off a chain of events that brings dark truths to light and explodes long-suppressed emotions. An ambitious reimagining of Shakespeare's King Lear cast upon a typical American community in the late twentieth century, A Thousand Acres takes on themes of truth, justice, love, and pride, and reveals the beautiful yet treacherous topography of humanity.

Review:

"A family portrait that is also a near-epic investigation into the broad landscape, the thousand dark acres of the human heart....The book has all the stark brutality of a Shakespearean tragedy." The Washington Post Book World

Review:

"Powerful and poignant." The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"It has been a long time since a novel so surprised me with its power to haunt....A Thousand Acres [has] the prismatic quality of the greatest art." Chicago Tribune

Review:

"Absorbing....Exhilarating....An engrossing piece of fiction." Time

Review:

"A full, commanding novel....A story bound and tethered to a lonely road in the Midwest, but drawn from a universal source....Profoundly American." The Boston Globe

Review:

"Brilliant....Absorbing....A thrilling work of art." Chicago Sun-Times

About the Author

Jane Smiley is the author of more than ten works of fiction, including Good Faith, Horse Heaven, Moo, and The Greenlanders. In 2001 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She lives in northern California.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 1 comment:

lyssmas, May 3, 2010 (view all comments by lyssmas)
Jane Smiley’s A Thousand Acres tells the story of a successful Iowa farmer who divides his farm between his three daughters. When the youngest daughter Caroline, objects, her father removes her from the will. This creates many events that reveal hidden truths about the Cook family. A Thousand Acres is the story of family dynamics and reveals the delicacy of these relationships.
A Thousand Acres is Smiley’s recreation of Shakespeare’s King Lear but set on a typical twentieth century American family farm in Iowa. Like Shakespeare, Smiley writes a similar plot that focuses on the main ideas of family dynamics, power, devotion, and authority. However, Smiley changes her point of view. Unlike Shakespeare, Smiley writes in the first person, whereas King Lear is a play. A Thousand Acres closely resembles a modern day Shakespearean tragedy.
Overall, the novel features Larry Cook, a profitable Iowa farmer who is ready to hand his farm down to his three daughters. Caroline, his youngest, is against the idea. This is a large blow to Larry’s pride. Smiley writes, “My father’s pride, always touchy, had been injured to the quick” (21). Since she wounded his pride, Larry cuts Caroline out of his will. When the other sisters, Ginny and Rose, do not do anything about their father’s irrational actions, Caroline becomes estranged from the family, causing many divisions. Eventually, Caroline and her father reconnect and side against Ginny and Rose. The stress from the divided family brings other secret truths to light. Also, the subplot focuses on Ginny and her relationship with her husband Ty, her sister Rose, her father, her inability to conceive a child, and her affair with a childhood acquaintance.
Jane Smiley does a wonderful job of reconstructing Shakespeare’s central themes. A major one is the struggles of family relationships. Within both families of each novel, the family members are fighting to be in power. In King Lear, Reagan and Goneril inherit his land and then use their power to push their father away and obtain all the power. After they have overtaken their father, the struggle is eventually between the two girls. The novel ends in tragedy with everyone’s death. A similar situation occurs in A Thousand Acres. After Larry hands his farm over to his daughters, he is frustrated that he no longer has a say in farm operations. This causes problems between Larry and Ginny and Rose. Once it becomes clear that the farm will not be returned to Larry, problems arise between Rose and Ginny. “Anger itself reminds me of Rose, but so do most of the women I see on the street, who wear dresses she would have liked, ride children on their hips with the swaying grace that she had, raise their voices wishfully, knowingly, indignantly, ruefully, ironically, affectionately, candidly, and even wrongly. Rose left me a riddle I haven’t solved, of how we judge those who have hurt us when they have shown no remorse or even understanding” (370). In the end, the family separates as a result of the power struggle. This is a powerful theme that any reader can relate to, giving the novel the ability to touch the lives of its readers.
Although the novels present the same themes, it consists of a few differences. Aside from some subtle plot differences, the key difference is the point of view. King Lear is a play, so apart from a few monologues, the readers rarely see inside the minds of the characters. Alternatively, A Thousand Acres is written in first person. The readers see the story through the eyes of Ginny. This causes a biased opinion from the readers. As readers, we learn Ginny’s opinions and her side of the story. We are unable to see the perspectives of Caroline, Larry, and Rose. Perhaps if we knew how they were feeling, we would have perceived the story much differently. In King Lear, we are an outsider looking in, but in A Thousand Acres, we feel as though we are a part of the story.
Overall, A Thousand Acres is an excellent book that anyone should read. Smiley’s descriptions of characters and her plot development make this novel one to remember and one that everyone can relate to.
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Product Details

ISBN:
9781400033836
Author:
Smiley, Jane
Publisher:
Anchor Books
Location:
New York
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Farm life
Subject:
Aging parents
Subject:
Sisters
Subject:
Fathers and daughters
Subject:
Inheritance and succession
Subject:
Parent and adult child
Subject:
Iowa
Subject:
Family farms
Subject:
Domestic fiction
Subject:
Literature-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Series Volume:
348
Publication Date:
20031231
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
384
Dimensions:
8.18x5.10x.86 in. .65 lbs.

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A Thousand Acres Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.50 In Stock
Product details 384 pages Anchor Books - English 9781400033836 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A family portrait that is also a near-epic investigation into the broad landscape, the thousand dark acres of the human heart....The book has all the stark brutality of a Shakespearean tragedy."
"Review" by , "Powerful and poignant."
"Review" by , "It has been a long time since a novel so surprised me with its power to haunt....A Thousand Acres [has] the prismatic quality of the greatest art."
"Review" by , "Absorbing....Exhilarating....An engrossing piece of fiction."
"Review" by , "A full, commanding novel....A story bound and tethered to a lonely road in the Midwest, but drawn from a universal source....Profoundly American."
"Review" by , "Brilliant....Absorbing....A thrilling work of art."
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