Customer Reviews for

The Year We Left Home

Average Rating 3
( 70 )
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(8)

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(26)

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(20)

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(6)

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(10)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

Beautifully wrought and totally recognizable...we know these things

Ah, the Midwest. One has notions of the Midwest that the characters in this novel try to disabuse one of all the way through, but in fact, it's pretty much the way I imagined it: overgrown family farms gone to ruin; empty, neglected storefronts on main streets; young ki...
Ah, the Midwest. One has notions of the Midwest that the characters in this novel try to disabuse one of all the way through, but in fact, it's pretty much the way I imagined it: overgrown family farms gone to ruin; empty, neglected storefronts on main streets; young kids dying to get out. This novel follows an extended family through the 1960s to the new millenium, and isn't lavish with descriptions of beauty or of success or even of happiness. But the author does treat us to moments of transcendence: Norman and Martha dancing at a wedding, and Martha again, dying, stopping her niece from leaving her side. One gets the sense, as the characters age, that this is pretty much the way it is, for all of us, wherever we are: tension, struggle, outcome. Some outcomes are good; some not so good. Moments of revelation and consequence are scattered through the novel like a hilly drive. One feels a ratcheting of tension and a concentration in focus, requiring a held breath to get us through. A headstrong young girl, determined to pain her parents, drives carelessly away from a funeral; a graduate student teaching a course invites a student to his house for dinner; a wife attends an AA meeting and brings another co-dependent home; a trip to Italy turns surreal. After, we turn our eyes and our thoughts to another character's life to catch our breath. These hills and valleys seem familiar, and when the book winds down we feel we could have been looking through the album of our lives: "Have you heard from so-and-so lately? I heard (s)he'd..."

posted by TheReadingWriter on May 8, 2011

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Most Helpful Critical Review

3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

Chapter 2 error

Haven't any readers noticed a glaring error in Chapter 2?? "...combine chugged along, making straight rows in the black dirt..." The title of the chapter tells the reader that it is April, 1975. You won't see combines in the field in April, and it's not the combine ...
Haven't any readers noticed a glaring error in Chapter 2?? "...combine chugged along, making straight rows in the black dirt..." The title of the chapter tells the reader that it is April, 1975. You won't see combines in the field in April, and it's not the combine that makes the straight rows in the black dirt. Combines are used in the fall to harvest the crop. Planting occurs in the spring, and that was a plow that made those rows. The author should be a bit more aware of farming practices, or avoid describing what her charcters see as they drive down the highway! Other than that, the story did hold my interest.

posted by Anonymous on July 10, 2011

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  • Posted May 8, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Beautifully wrought and totally recognizable...we know these things

    Ah, the Midwest. One has notions of the Midwest that the characters in this novel try to disabuse one of all the way through, but in fact, it's pretty much the way I imagined it: overgrown family farms gone to ruin; empty, neglected storefronts on main streets; young kids dying to get out. This novel follows an extended family through the 1960s to the new millenium, and isn't lavish with descriptions of beauty or of success or even of happiness. But the author does treat us to moments of transcendence: Norman and Martha dancing at a wedding, and Martha again, dying, stopping her niece from leaving her side. One gets the sense, as the characters age, that this is pretty much the way it is, for all of us, wherever we are: tension, struggle, outcome. Some outcomes are good; some not so good. Moments of revelation and consequence are scattered through the novel like a hilly drive. One feels a ratcheting of tension and a concentration in focus, requiring a held breath to get us through. A headstrong young girl, determined to pain her parents, drives carelessly away from a funeral; a graduate student teaching a course invites a student to his house for dinner; a wife attends an AA meeting and brings another co-dependent home; a trip to Italy turns surreal. After, we turn our eyes and our thoughts to another character's life to catch our breath. These hills and valleys seem familiar, and when the book winds down we feel we could have been looking through the album of our lives: "Have you heard from so-and-so lately? I heard (s)he'd..."

    8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 14, 2012

    A Character Intense Novel

    If you like novels that are richer in characters than action, you will like this novel. I can see that some people would find it boring but I found it refreshing to read a story that is utterly believable.

    This novel examines the lives of several family members in a way that helps us understand them better than they most likely understand each other. We get glimpses of their lives and insights that are familiar yet thought provoking. It reminds you that even though you know people, there is more you don't know about them.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 14, 2012

    Recommended

    This reads like a collection of short stories with recurring characters, and the somewhat loose plot is tied together in the last story. That is not a criticism, however. Each of the stories is focused and compelling. I found the book quite satisfying.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 7, 2012

    A great sobering tale of the modern Midwestern family

    A very well written exploration of a Norwegian American family in a rural farming town. The children become adults and head out into the world with very different journeys. But in the end, you can't escape who you are or your family & heritage...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 9, 2011

    linked short stories reveal a generation's drift

    I'm not a fan of short stories, but when they're linked in this way, they are as good as a novel. Through this episodic approach, Thompson gives us a solid look at one American family's drift through three decades.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 23, 2011

    A True to Life Novel

    I thoroughly enjoyed this novel that follows a family as they move through circumstances of their lives played out over several decades. Jean Thompson has done an exceptional job bringing the reader inside the lives and souls of the family's four children in rural Iowa. Being from the midwest myself, her depiction of the farm, small town life was right on. She wrote about these characters, their experiences and the emotions behind them with such realism that when their story ended I felt like my lifelong, beloved neighbors had moved away. I look forward to her next novel!

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  • Posted July 15, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Family Drama

    This is a complex story, spanning thirty years in the life of a Midwestern family. We are taken through events in their lives collectively and individually, yet each is personal.

    Events open with the Vietnam War in progress, and span through the War in the Middle East (Iraq and Afghanistan). This has effects on the characters throughout the book.

    There are many events that we can all relate to, from graduations, weddings, economic struggles, the trials of youth and independence, age and resignation. There are triumphs and tragedies, decisions and consequences. Each event impacts each character in seen and unseen ways.

    The characters are very honest in their roles. They are true to themselves and their interactions are sincere. This epic family portrait can take its rightful place next to the other classics of this genre.

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  • Posted July 12, 2011

    Good Read!

    The Year We Left Home follows different members of a family through the trials of their lives. Over all I really enjoyed the book. But I was confused a few times because it felt like significant parts of the character's lives are left out. The writing shows how people can be so self-centered that they don't see how they are hurting someone else. It also shows the changes in attitudes and lifestyles from the 60's to the 90's. I will recommend this book to my friends and others.

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