Golden Age

Jane Smiley is best known for her novel A Thousand Acres, which won a Pulitzer Prize and was made into a powerful movie. However, this novel and the two that preceded it—Some Luck and Early Warning—form what she calls her Last Hundred Years trilogy and are, taken together, the greatest accomplishment in her brilliant career. The trilogy follows an Iowa farm family, the Langdons, from 1920 to 2019, including various offspring, aunts and uncles, cousins, in-laws and others, all of them creatures of the land even as they move away from it to become artists, financiers, soldiers and spies and, in one case, a congressman. Others remain on the land, and the trilogy documents the profound challenges farmers have faced over time. There is no overarching plot; instead, the books are organized like a chronological photo album, with each year forming a chapter that includes several snapshot-like scenes, all of them vivid and compelling. Start with Some Luck; you’ll soon be pulled into these masterpieces of American literature.