The Year We Left Home: Book summary and reviews of The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson

The Year We Left Home

A Novel

by Jean Thompson

The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson X
The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson
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  • Published in USA  May 2011
    336 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

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.

The Year We Left Home 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 booms and 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.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Dazzling... Unforgettable... A masterful wide-angle portrait of an Iowa family over three decades." - Kirkus Reviews

"Starred Review. Thompson's pithy humor, redolent details, and knowing compassion have never been sharper or more resounding as her characters' follies and struggles reveal depthless truths about men and women, families and vocations, the lure of away and the gravitational pull of home." - Booklist

"Told from the point of view of more than a half-dozen characters, the vignettes that make up the narrative are generally powerful in isolation, but as a whole fail to develop into anything more than a series of snapshots of a family touched by time and tragedy." - Publishers Weekly

"Few fiction writers working today have more successfully rendered the sensation of solid ground suddenly melting away, pinpointing that instant when the familiar present is swallowed up by an always encroaching past or voided future." - The New York Times Book Review

"Precisely the kind of beautifully crafted, intelligent, imaginative writing that serious readers crave.... Each sentence deserves to be appreciated." - USA Today

"One of our most astute diagnosticians of contemporary experience, conflict, unhappiness, and regret." - The Boston Globe

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Reader Reviews

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SUZANNE G

LOVED IT......
This was another can't-put-down book. I lived with every family member during the years but actually they lived with me for the two days it took me to read the book, then for a few days thereafter. Jean Thompson's writing seems so smooth and flows so easily. Her descriptions of circumstances were lovely.

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Author Information

Jean Thompson Author Biography

Photo: Marion Ettlinger

Jean Thompson is a novelist and short story writer, whose most recent novel is A Cloud in the Shape of a Girl (Simon & Schuster). Her other works include the novels She Poured Out Her HeartThe Humanity Project, The Year We Left Home, City Boy, and  Wide Blue Yonder, and the short story collections The Witch and Other Tales Re-Told, Do Not Deny Me, Throw Like a Girl, and Who Do You Love, which was a 1999 National Book Award finalist.

Thompson's short fiction has been published in many magazines and journals, including The New Yorker, and been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize. Jean's work has been praised by Elle Magazine as "bracing and wildly intelligent writing that explores the nature of love in all its hidden and manifest ...

... Full Biography
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