SOME LUCK

Jane Smiley

National Book Award Nominee

A Best Book of the Year: The Washington Post, NPR, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Financial Times, The Seattle Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, BookPage

1920, Denby, Iowa: Rosanna and Walter Langdon have just welcomed their firstborn son, Frank, into their family farm. He will be the oldest of five. Each chapter in this extraordinary novel covers a single year, encompassing the sweep of history as the Langdons abide by time-honored values and pass them on to their children. With the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change through the early 1950s,

more …

National Book Award Nominee

A Best Book of the Year: The Washington Post, NPR, USA Today, San Francisco Chronicle, Financial Times, The Seattle Times, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, BookPage

1920, Denby, Iowa: Rosanna and Walter Langdon have just welcomed their firstborn son, Frank, into their family farm. He will be the oldest of five. Each chapter in this extraordinary novel covers a single year, encompassing the sweep of history as the Langdons abide by time-honored values and pass them on to their children. With the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change through the early 1950s, we watch as 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 we’d seen growing up now has a little girl of her own.

The first volume of an epic trilogy from a beloved writer at the height of her powers, Some Luck starts us on a literary adventure through cycles of birth and death, passion and betrayal that will span a century in America.

less …
  • Anchor
  • Paperback
  • July 2015
  • 416 Pages
  • 9780307744807

Buy the Book

$15.95

indies Bookstore indies Bookstore

About Jane Smiley

Jane Smiley is the author of numerous novels,

including A Thousand Acres, which was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, as

well as five works of nonfiction and a series of books for young adults. In

2001 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters,

and in 2006 she received the PEN USA Lifetime Achievement Award for

Literature. She lives in northern California.

Praise

“[Smiley] seemingly writes the way her idol Dickens did—as easily as if it

were breathing.”—The New York Times

Discussion Questions

What do you think the title means? Whose luck does it

refer to? Is it only good or bad luck, or does the word

“luck” shift in connotation as the novel goes forward?

Each chapter in the novel takes place over the course of

one year. How does Smiley use this structure to propel her story?

How does Mary Elizabeth’s death affect Rosanna? How does it change

her relationship with the children who follow?

Throughout the story, Frank is described as persistent, if not outright

stubborn. How does this quality help him in his life? Does it hinder him?

Over the course of the three decades Some Luck spans, various

characters embrace or resist new technology—Walter and the tractor,

Rosanna and electricity, Joey’s farming techniques, Frank’s study of

German warfare. How does Smiley use their reactions to deepen our

understanding of these characters and to show the passage of time?

What does Walter think and feel during the scene at the well? What

do his decisions at that moment say about his own personality and the

circumstances of the times? Why doesn’t he tell Rosanna about it until

many years later?

What role do faith and religion play in the early parts of the novel?

What about for the subsequent generation? Would you say that

religion is related to the theme of luck?

How do the generations of men engage differently in the wars of their times?

What does their involvement show about their respective personalities,

the nature of war, and America’s evolving role in world conflict?

How does parenting change from one generation to the next? Compare

Lillian and Andy to Rosanna, and Arthur and Frank to Walter. And

what about the roles of the sexes?

By the end of Some Luck, Henry is just becoming an adult and Claire

is still a child. What do you think might be ahead for them in the next

book(s) of this trilogy?

Did your knowledge that Some Luck is the first of a trilogy affect

your reading of the novel? In what ways is the conclusion of the book

definitive, full circle, and in what ways does it leave things open-ended?