Book Review: Some Luck

March 5, 2015 Book Review, reviews 9

Book Review: Some LuckSome Luck by Jane Smiley
Published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing on Ocober 7th, 2014
Genres: Fiction, Literary
Pages: 395
Source: purchased
AmazonBarnes & Noble


For a couple of years while growing up we lived on my grandparents farm in Tennessee.  I learned early on what makes a successful farm: a ton of hard work, dedication and some luck!

Set in the Midwest town of Denby, Iowa, Walter Langdon marries the prettiest girl in town, Rosanna, and sets up home and farm just outside of town.  Soon the babies start coming; first Frank then Joe, Lillian, Henry and finally Claire.  Covering 1920 – 1953, each chapter represents one year and we get a brief peek inside the lives of the Langdon family.    Frank makes his own way, is headstrong and stubborn yet also brilliant.  Joe is considered the ‘whiner’ and yet his particular gift of stewing over an issue brings him and his family success; Lillian is the angel, naive and beautiful; Henry has no interest in farming and somehow escapes much of the farm life work ~ he reads, and reads and reads; Claire is her daddy’s heart – is it because Walter has the time later in life to focus on Claire or is it because Rosanna seemed to have a bit of postpartum blues or a combination?

I must admit that I have mixed feelings about Some Luck ~ Is it a sweeping family saga or a book without a plot?  I think it is one of those that you either hate it or you need a few days to think it over and find that months after the fact you’re still pondering the Langdon family.  That’s where Jane Smiley has created a brilliant novel ~ it gradually gets under your skin and you find yourself thinking about the Langdon’s long after the book is closed.

Some Luck mirrors life ~ there’s a few big things that happen but mostly we get by in the everyday-ness of life.

Why I picked up Some Luck

I picked this one up because I’ve got Early Warning on my queue to review, and I wanted to start from the beginning in Smiley’s trilogy about the Langdon family.

What I would have liked better

There are a LOT of characters by the end of Some Luck and though Smiley includes a family tree at the beginning, I found myself having to look back quite a bit.  Before I start Early Warning I am going to print out the family tree!  Not every chapter includes each of the children or their friends and then subsequent spouses.   Since I had to read this one over a couple of weeks rather than all in a couple of sittings, it took me longer to get reacquainted with who was who.

Please give me more

Henry!  It seemed to me that Frank ended up as the accidental protagonist, but it was Henry that I was drawn to.

Interesting to Note

The discussion questions in the back of the novel really got me thinking about how so much about each character and the time period is revealed through atypical means.  For example, Walter resists getting a tractor for the longest time (times were changing, farming was evolving) and Frank’s character flaws are shown through Joe’s behavior (Frank is not a very nice brother toward Joe).  If you read this one be sure to check out the discussion questions ~ reading through those alone will reveal the brilliance of this author.

If you like A Spool of Blue Thread by Anne Tyler or Dissident Gardens by Jonathan Lethem then you may enjoy Some Luck.

What book have you read recently that kept you thinking about the characters long after the last page was over?


9 Responses to “Book Review: Some Luck”

    • Stacy (The Novel Life)

      Yeah I’m anxious to get started on Early Warning….it’s just I’ve got about 3,479 books to read before that one ;-0
      I imagine you know exactly what I’m talking about and probably {hopefully} have the same thing going on with your to be read stack! it’s a hopefully because I don’t want to be the only one in the world who feels so far behind!
      Stacy (The Novel Life) recently posted…Book Review: Some LuckMy Profile

    • Stacy (The Novel Life)

      I think you might just like it! It’s one of those to read slowly…it’s kind of like visiting the relatives on Sunday if that makes any sense. I find myself still wondering how the Langdon family is doing and can’t wait to get started on Early Warning! I’d love to know your thoughts on it!
      Stacy (The Novel Life) recently posted…Book Review: Some LuckMy Profile

  1. Tara @ Running 'N' Reading

    Stacy, I wondered this very same thing! “Sweeping saga” or book that runs too long with no point? I’m glad you shared your thoughts with us; I’m still a bit intrigued by the story, but I do find that it’s hard for me to stick with a story that includes lots of characters. I think the book I’ve read most recently that I can’t get away from is Station Eleven; I still find myself thinking of those characters and I read it two months ago! Thanks for a great review!
    Tara @ Running ‘N’ Reading recently posted…Reading RoundupMy Profile

    • Stacy (The Novel Life)

      Would you believe I still have not read Station Eleven?!? I did look for it just yesterday at the bookstore but it was out. I’m not sure why I’ve postponed reading it for so long. Everyone raves about it. I think if I can get through all the books I need to read and review these next couple of weeks then I’m going to reward myself with a hardbound Station Eleven and a weekend of reading!
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  2. Donna Cimorelli

    I own a copy of this, but I’ve put off reading it. Now I’m going to wait for the second book to come out, so I can read them back to back. Hopefully that will cut down on some of the confusion with characters, although I’m not sure. I love family sagas, so I do hope this one is a hit for me.
    Donna Cimorelli recently posted…Short and Sweet YA ReviewsMy Profile

    • Stacy (The Novel Life)

      Oh I”d love to know what you think! I still catch myself thinking about the Langdon family and wondering how they’re all doing! Weird, I know! It’s just that this family feels like, well, like family! Other than keeping everybody straight as to who was who, this is one of those novels to get under your skin. I’ll keep an eye for a review by you of both {if you decide to review them}. I do hope you enjoy the Langdons!
      Stacy (The Novel Life) recently posted…Book Review: Some LuckMy Profile

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