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A Thousand Acres
Cover of A Thousand Acres
A Thousand Acres
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
PULITZER PRIZE WINNER • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A "powerful and poignant" twentieth-century reimagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear (The New York Times Book Review) that takes on themes of truth, justice, love, and pride—and centers on a wealthy Iowa farmer who decides to divide his farm between his three daughters. 
When the youngest daughter 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. Ambitiously conceived and stunningly written, A Thousand Acres reveals the beautiful yet treacherous topography of humanity.
“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
PULITZER PRIZE WINNER • NATIONAL BESTSELLER • A "powerful and poignant" twentieth-century reimagining of Shakespeare’s King Lear (The New York Times Book Review) that takes on themes of truth, justice, love, and pride—and centers on a wealthy Iowa farmer who decides to divide his farm between his three daughters. 
When the youngest daughter 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. Ambitiously conceived and stunningly written, A Thousand Acres reveals the beautiful yet treacherous topography of humanity.
“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
Available formats-
  • OverDrive Read
  • EPUB eBook
Subjects-
Languages:-
Copies-
  • Available:
    1
  • Library copies:
    1
Levels-
  • ATOS:
  • Lexile:
    930
  • Interest Level:
  • Text Difficulty:
    4 - 6


Excerpts-
  • From the book At sixty miles per hour, you could pass our farm in a minute, on County Road 686, which ran due north into the T intersection at Cabot Street Road. Cabot Street Road was really just another country blacktop, except that five miles west it ran into and out of the town of Cabot. On the western edge of Cabot, it became Zebulon County Scenic Highway, and ran for three miles along the curve of the Zebulon River, before the river turned south and the Scenic continued west into Pike. The T intersection of CR 686 perched on a little rise, a rise nearly as imperceptible as the bump in the center of an inexpensive plate.

    From that bump, the earth was unquestionably flat, the sky unquestionably domed, and it seemed to me when I was a child in school, learning about Columbus, that in spite of what my teacher said, ancient cultures might have been onto something. No globe or map fully convinced me that Zebulon County was not the center of the universe. Certainly, Zebulon County, where the earth was flat, was one spot where a sphere (a seed, a rubber ball, a ballbearing) must come to perfect rest and once at rest must send a taproot downward into the ten-foot-thick topsoil.

    Because the intersection was on this tiny rise, you could see our buildings, a mile distant, at the southern edge of the farm. A mile to the east, you could see three silos that marked the northeastern corner, and if you raked your gaze from the silos to the house and barn, then back again, you would take in the immensity of the piece of land my father owned, six hundred forty acres, a whole section, paid for, no encumbrances, as flat and fertile, black, friable, and exposed as any piece of land on the face of the earth.

    If you looked west from the intersection, you saw no sign of anything remotely scenic in the distance. That was because the Zebulon River had cut down through topsoil and limestone, and made its pretty course a valley below the level of the surrounding farmlands. Nor, except at night, did you see any sign of Cabot. You saw only this, two sets of farm buildings surrounded by fields. In the nearer set lived the Ericsons, who had daughters the ages of my sister Rose and myself, and in the farther set lived the Clarks, whose sons, Loren and Jess, were in grammar school when we were in junior high. Harold Clark was my father's best friend. He had five hundred acres and no mortgage. The Ericsons had three hundred seventy acres and a mortgage.

    Acreage and financing were facts as basic as the name and gender in Zebulon County. Harold Clark and my father used to argue at our kitchen table about who should get the Ericson land when they finally lost their mortgage. I was aware of this whenever I played with Ruthie Ericson, whenever my mother, my sister Rose, and I went over to help can garden produce, whenever Mrs. Ericson brought over some pies or doughnuts, whenever my father loaned Mr. Ericson a tool, whenever we ate Sunday dinner in the Ericson's kitchen. I recognized the justice of Harold Clark's opinion that the Ericson' land was on his side of the road, but even so, I thought it should be us. For one thing, Dinah Ericson's bedroom had a window seat in the closet that I coveted. For another, I thought it appropriate and desirable that the great circle of the flat earth spreading out from the T intersection of County Road 686 and Cabot Street be ours. A thousand acres. It was that simple.

    It was 1951 and I was eight when I saw the farm and the future in this way. That was the year my father bought his first car, a Buick sedan with prickly gray velvet seats, so rounded and slick that it was easy to slide off the backseat into the footwell when we went over a stiff bump...
About the Author-
  • JANE SMILEY is the author of numerous novels, including A Thousand Acres, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, and most recently, Golden Age, the concluding volume of The Last Hundred Years trilogy. She is also the author of five works of nonfiction and a series of books for young adults. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, she has also received the PEN Center USA Lifetime Achievement Award for Literature. She lives in Northern California.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    September 30, 1991
    If Smiley ( Ordinary Love & Good Will ) has previously been hailed for her insight into human nature, the moral complexity of her themes and her lucid and resonant prose, her new novel is her best yet, bringing together her extraordinary talents in a story of stunning insight and impact. ``Our farm and our lives seemed secure and good,'' says narrator Ginny Cook, looking back on the summer before her father capriciously decided to turn over his prosperous 1000-acre Iowa farm to his three daughters and their mates. That was the same summer that Jess Clark, their neighbors' prodigal son, returned after a 13-year absence, romance and peril trailing in his wake. Although Ginny's existence as a farmer's wife and caretaker of her irascible, bullying, widower father is not easy, there are compensations in her good marriage, in the close companionship of her indomitable sister Rose, who lives across the road, and in sharing vicariously in the accomplishments of their younger sister, Caroline, a lawyer. Having managed to submerge her grief at being childless, passive Ginny has also hidden a number of darker secrets in her past. These shocking events work their way out of her subconscious in the dreadful aftermath of her father's decision to rescind his legacy, shouting accusations of filial betrayal. Like Lear's daughters, the Cook sisters each reveal their true natures in events that will leave readers gasping with astonishment. Smiley powerfully evokes the unrelenting, insular world of farm life, the symbiotic relationships between a farmer and his land as well as those among the other members of the rural community. She contrasts the stringencies of nature with those of human nature: the sting of sibling rivalry, the tensions of marriage, the psychological burdens of children, the passion of lovers. Her tightly controlled prose propels tension to nearly unbearable extremes--but always within the limits of credibility. In the end, she has raised profound questions about human conduct and moral responsibility, especially about family relationships and the guilt and bitterness they can foster. BOMC selection.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 3, 1992
    Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the NBCC Award for fiction, a BOMC dual main selection and a five-week PW bestseller in cloth, Smiley's novel of family life on an insular Iowa farm raises profound questions about human conduct and moral responsibility.

  • Chicago Sun-Times

    "Brilliant. . . . Absorbing. . . . A thrilling work of art."

  • The Washington Post Book World "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 New York Times Book Review "Powerful and poignant."
  • San Francisco Chronicle "Superb. . . . There seems to be nothing Smiley can't write about fabulously well."
  • Chicago Tribune "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."
  • Time "Absorbing. . . . Exhilarating. . . . An engrossing piece of fiction."
  • The Boston Globe "A full, commanding novel. . . . A story bound and tethered to a lonely road in the Midwest, but drawn from a universal source. . . . Profoundly American."
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    Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
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A Thousand Acres
A Thousand Acres
A Novel
Jane Smiley
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