I really enjoy this book and I think this is my second or third time reading it. Some Luck follows the Langdon family, who start off as farmers in Iowa. Each chapter is one year in their lives, and that concept makes this book very readable, as it moves along at a fast pace. This is the first book in a trilogy and covers 1920 to 1953. I think the thing that makes this book more than a gimmick is Jane Smiley’s beautiful prose — there are a lot of sentences in here that make you stop and re-read them with how luminous and thoughtful they are. The last paragraph of the book in particular is moving and reflected my own personal feelings in the way that good writing does. I also liked that she uses a lot of point of view characters, so you’re able to experience the family from different viewpoints, and the small children’s perspectives are particularly charming.
I do think that the book suffers a bit as all of the Langdon kids grow up and start having their own children. Four children then having eight grandchildren leads to a very large cast of characters that can be hard to keep track of. I just started the second book in the trilogy and had to take a moment to look at the family tree, even though I had finished the first book one minute prior. One person starts going by a different name and some people have nicknames, which I found additionally confusing. I also thought that there was a sense of remove from the events, like things just kept happening to move the plot forward and the characters felt a bit like paper dolls sometimes who were being moved around to experience historic events. And the events around Frank, who is clearly Jane Smiley’s favorite character, are so favorable to him and over the top that it seemed a bit contrived. But then, Frank is also my favorite character and I enjoyed seeing him being the coolest, smartest, most morally gray person in the book. He’s a sniper, he has a photographic memory, he can fly a plane, he has ultimate self-confidence and he’s tall, and he’s handsome, etc etc etc. Sometimes you just have a character who’s the most lively one in the book.
Overall, this is a comforting and zippy family/historic drama, and I’d recommend it to anyone who likes family novels.
Warnings for: WWII (visceral descriptions of killing, concentration camp), child death, several other deaths, suicide and suicidal ideation, animal death (one gross scene involving a dead horse).