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The Year We Left Home

Thompson, Jean

Book - 2011
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
The Year We Left Home
From National Book Award finalist Jean Thompson comes a mesmerizing, decades-spanning saga of one ordinary American family proud, flawed, hopeful whose story simultaneously captures the turbulent history of the country at large. Over the course of a thirty-year career, Jean Thompson has been celebrated by critics as a writer of extraordinary intelligence and sensitivity. O, The Oprah Magazine an American Alice Munro The Wall Street Journal, and one of our most lucid and insightful writers San Francisco Chronicle. Her peers have been no less vocal, from Jennifer Egan bracing . . . boldly unconventional to David Sedaris if there are Jean Thompson characters, they're us, and never have we been as articulate and worthy of compassion Now, in The Year We Left Home, Thompson brings together all of her talents to deliver the career-defining novel her admirers have been waiting for: a sweeping and emotionally powerful story of a single American family during the tumultuous final decades of the twentieth century. It begins in 1973 when the Erickson family of Grenada, Iowa, gathers for the wedding of their eldest daughter, Anita. Even as they celebrate, the fault lines in the family emerge. The bride wants nothing more than to raise a family in her hometown, while her brother Ryan watches restlessly from the sidelines, planning his escape. He is joined by their cousin Chip, an unpredictable, war-damaged loner who will show Ryan both the appeal and the perils of freedom. Torrie, the Ericksons youngest daughter, is another rebel intent on escape, but the choices she makes will bring about a tragedy that leaves the entire family changed forever. Stretching from the early 1970s in the Iowa farmlands to suburban Chicago to the coast of contemporary Italy and moving through the Vietnam War's aftermath, the farm crisis, the numerous economic boomsand busts The Year We Left Home follows the Erickson siblings as they confront prosperity and heartbreak, setbacks and triumphs, and seek their place in a country whose only constant seems to be breathtaking change. Ambitious, richly told, and fiercely American, this is a vivid and moving meditation on our continual pursuit of happiness and an incisive exploration of the national character.

Publisher: New York : Simon & Schuster, 2011
Edition: 1st Simon & Schuster hardcover ed
ISBN: 9781439175880
Branch Call Number: Fiction
Characteristics: 325 p. ; 25 cm


From Library Staff

Reason: A moving portrait of a family over time, this novel features psychologically complex characters and a meditation on many issues.

From the critics

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Jul 14, 2013
  • sharonb122 rated this: 3.5 stars out of 5.

A well-written novel with a "Wizard of Oz" theme where three children (plus Chip) leave home, but eventually all return in one way or another. There is much symbolism and themes. family, of course, war, patriotism.

Jan 28, 2013
  • megaculpa rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Like Alice Munro, Jean Thompson is best known for her well-crafted short stories. This episodic novel spans thirty years and a dozen members of an extended Iowa family in a series of linked stories. Thompson gradually and artfully pulls the threads together into a satisfying whole. This is an author who cares about her characters and her readers.

Jun 10, 2012
  • annmelone rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

A great midwestern family story with less angst than Jonathan Franzen and more love and soul. Started a bit slow but great ending.

Jul 25, 2011
  • maven rated this: 2 stars out of 5.

I really liked the writing style, but the story was boring and not much seemed to happen. I also had a hard time caring about any of the characters enough to see what happened to them, so I just quit.

Jul 12, 2011
  • kabruzino rated this: 4.5 stars out of 5.

Loved the book, couldn't put it down. Liked how each chapter was written focusing on a different character each time. Different spin on growing up in the midwest.

Jun 21, 2011
  • debwalker rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

"Family Saga
Jean Thompson's The Year We Left Home (Simon & Schuster) plumbs the American heart with rigor and intensity, seamlessly connecting one family's fortunes to those of the larger national community—from the aftermath of Vietnam through the farm crisis of the 1980s, into the tech boom and bust. Built from individual narratives that at first seem disconnected, the novel follows the four Erickson siblings of Iowa through marriages and deaths as well as smaller moments of alienation, loss, and maturity. Eventually, like the Ericksons, we come to realize that "no moment of life was like any other and as soon as you became aware of them, they were as good as gone."

— Liza Nelson


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Jun 09, 2014
  • jhealey73 rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

“The danger of sending your children to college was that they would be contaminated by subversive forces, bad influences and bawdy women."


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