Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Shakespearean Tragedy Amidst the Corn Fields

Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1991.  Her novel takes place in 1979 and centers around the Cook family and their farm in Iowa.  Larry Cook, the patriarch, decides to retire from farming and leave the land to his three daughters.  The youngest and the only one who no longer lives on the farm but instead became a lawyer and lives in Des Moine, expresses her concern about this to her father, and he impulsively decides to cut her out of the deal.  The story focuses largely around the other two sisters, Ginny and Rose, and their struggles in their marriages, with each other, with Rose's cancer, and with the sexual abuse inflicted upon them by their father.  It's a bleak tale, in fact there are very few happy scenes or moments.  Nonetheless, it is a powerful story that moves along quickly, and I understand is a modern day version of King Lear. 

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