Some Luck : The Last Hundred Years Trilogy

  • by Jane Smiley
  • Narrated by Lorelei King
  • Series: The Last Hundred Years Trilogy
  • 14 hrs and 48 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

From the winner of the Pulitzer Prize: a powerful, engrossing new novel - the life and times of a remarkable family over three transformative decades in America.
On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different children: from Frank, the handsome, willful first born, and Joe, whose love of animals and the land sustains him, to Claire, who earns a special place in her father’s heart.
Each chapter in Some Luck covers a single year, beginning in 1920, as American soldiers like Walter return home from World War I, and going up through the early 1950s, with the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change. As the Langdons branch out from Iowa to both coasts of America, the personal and the historical merge seamlessly: one moment electricity is just beginning to power the farm, and the next a son is volunteering to fight the Nazis; later still, a girl you’d seen growing up now has a little girl of her own, and you discover that your laughter and your admiration for all these lives are mixing with tears.
Some Luck delivers on everything we look for in a work of fiction. Taking us through cycles of births and deaths, passions and betrayals, among characters we come to know inside and out, it is a tour de force that stands wholly on its own. But it is also the first part of a dazzling epic trilogy - a literary adventure that will span a century in America: an astonishing feat of storytelling by a beloved writer at the height of her powers.


What the Critics Say

"The expansive American epic is Smiley’s métier, and she’s in top form with this multigenerational story of an Iowa farming family - sturdy sons, passionate daughters, a tough but tender existence - across the first half of the 20th century." (Time)
"Pulitzer Prize-winning Smiley moves from the 1920s to the 1950s as she unfolds the life of Iowa farmers Rosanna and Walter Langdon and their five children. As the children grow up and sometimes move away, we get a wide-angle view of mid-century America. Told in beautiful, you-are-there language, the narrative lets ordinary events accumulate to give us a significant feel of life at the time, with the importance and dangers of farming particularly well portrayed. In the end, though, this is the story of parents and children, of hope and disappointment... Highly recommended; a lush and grounded reading experience." (Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal)
"Tremendous... Smiley is a seductive writer in perfect command of every element of language. She was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for A Thousand Acres, a novel about a farming family in Iowa, and she returns to that fertile ground to tell the stories of the Langdons, a clan deeply in accord with the land... As barbed in her wit as ever, Smiley is also munificently tender. The Langdons endure the Depression, Walter agonizes over giving up his horses for a tractor, and Joe tries the new synthetic fertilizers. Then, as Frank serves in WWII and, covertly, the Cold War, the novel’s velocity, intensity, and wonder redouble. This [is a] saga of the vicissitudes of luck, and our futile efforts to control it. Smiley’s grand, assured, quietly heroic, and affecting novel is a supremely nuanced portrait of a family spanning three pivotal American decades. It will be on the top of countless to-read lists." (Donna Seaman, Booklist)


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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Takes Times To Develop But Is Really Worth The Effort

I loved Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres and had very high hopes that this family saga set in Iowa would be something along that line. Some Luck is a different book. It takes patience. The beauty of this first entry in a planned trilogy is slow to evolve. I was almost half way through the listen before the characters had captured me. Before I really cared about any of them. I almost gave up-- but I am really glad I kept listening.

The writing was spare and at first almost one dimensional. Smiley had the story drop in on the family and witness slices of life sequentially as the years progressed. To me these paper doll characters of the first chapters grew into whole, living, breathing and complex people gradually with each year and each new chapter.

This isn't a story that spoon feeds the listener. It is instead a book that the reader needs to work at and ponder. Subtle connections appear in a web like fashion and these webs connect the seemingly disconnected events into an amazing whole. Random flashes of insight flare like tiny sparks. Not the fireworks of A Thousand Acres--but beautiful all the same.

This book is a meditation on family, farming, hard work, individuality and traditions. Keep in mind that luck comes in many forms--good and bad. It also takes time to see which is which as life plays out. I loved the story and look forward to book two whenever it appears. Recommended if you are willing to take the time and let the story unfold. A wonderful listen.
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- STS "..."


I have liked Jane Smiley in the past - A Thousand Acres was one of my all time favorites. This story is SO slow, so cumbersome and so full of unnecessary detail that I want to scream from the sidelines - "Jane, get on with it!" The premise that she would think her characterization of a child's view of the world would sustain us for a very long time was, in my mind, not a good calculation. I didn't even want to finish this. That doesn't happen very often with me.
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- Molly-o "English major. Love to read"

Book Details

  • Release Date: 10-07-2014
  • Publisher: Random House Audio