Some luck by Jane Smiley

1920. After his return from the battlefields in France, Walter Langdon and his wife Rosanna begin their life together on a remote farm in Iowa. As time passes, their little family will grow: from Frank, the handsome first-born, to Joe, Lillian, Henry, and Claire, the surprise baby who earns a special place in her father’s heart.

As Walter and Rosanna struggle to keep their family through good years and bad, the world around their little farm will turn, and life for their children will be unrecognizable from what came before.

Some will fall in love, some will have families of their own, some will go to war and some will not survive. All will mark history in their own way.

Smiley did not rate highly with our group this month. The majority of us found her thoughtful writing style spent too much time on mundane items with little development in the storyline. Most struggled with the large cast of characters with no one really standing apart.

The first person narrative for main characters was praised by all, but this alone was not enough to raise the novel out of the doldrums. It may be true to life on an Iowa farm, but there were few who were keen to continue the trilogy of the Langdons and their 100 year history.

Those of us who did enjoy this novel found the slow and melodic rural life an enjoyable read with time to get acquainted with all the characters and their varied life paths. Sometimes a novel is just about people, their lives and their dreams … little excitements, but mostly the simple ‘walk of life’ that we all take.

The changing world takes awhile to impact on a rural community, but as the Langdons grow and scatter, the influences of childhood and familiar ties plays a powerful role in bringing everyone back and that is where this book pays tribute to what family really means.