PPRL: A Thousand Acres, by Jane Smiley (winner, 1992)

It's been a long minute since I posted about a Pulitzer novel. But I'm back on the sauce and still as weird about reading as ever, thanks to my English major programming, and it doesn't feel like a complete process until I've gotten down some thoughts about it.

A Thousand Acres (a reimagining of King Lear, set in the 1970s midwest) creeps up on you. You think it's plodding, you think it's your typically even-paced, multi-generational farm story. Then boom, you've got incest, extramarital affairs, attempted murder, suicide, and other family fun. What I enjoyed most about the story was the protagonist Ginny's range of emotion, action, and reaction. And I loved that, depending where you stand, you'll either admire her or pity her at novel's end. If I had a complaint, it's that Smiley lobs such massive plot bombs at the reader one after another without letting them fully detonate before throwing another. It's hard to absorb, and hard to believe, after a while, without sufficiently explored fallout. 

Essay topics: appearances vs reality, trading / bargains struck, things that grow and bear fruit vs. things which are barren, interrupted, abandoned etc.