Who doesn’t love a good family saga? You know, as long as it’s not your family;) Early Warning by Jane Smiley is the second installment in The Last Hundred Years Trilogy. The books revolve around the Langdons, a family of farmers rooted in Iowa who eventually spread out across America over the 20th century.
I adore that premise: following generations of one family over the course of 100 years. How do they evolve and will they repeat history? How does America shape the course of their lives or vice versa? The premise is promising and Smiley, a Pulitzer Prize winning author, does a fantastic job of following through.
As I said, Early Warning is the second book in the trilogy so while I guess you could jump in and start with it, I highly recommend starting at the beginning with Some Luck. Both books are captivating. They move quickly because of their structure, each chapter starts a new year, and by the time you get to the end you’ll be shocked at how much you’ve experienced with these characters. Smiley artfully gives the reader insight into every stage of life, from infancy to old age, and the journey is fascinating. I’ve never read a book where I was privy to the thoughts of a character as a baby and as an elderly man, but that’s what this trilogy presents.
One of the best things about these books is the breadth of them. Yes, the Langdon family starts as humble farmers in Iowa, but as the children (and their children) grow up they scatter from coast to coast, fight in America’s major conflicts, raise diverse families and even directly affect our nation’s domestic and foreign policy. Plot twists and surprises are woven in, but the core of this trilogy is lessons learned over the course of a lifetime. As in real life, those lessons are harder to see initially, but worth much more in the end.
Title- Early Warning
Author- Jane Smiley
My Rating- 4.5 (out of 5)