Excerpt from Private Life by Jane Smiley, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Private Life

by Jane Smiley

Private Life
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2010, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Jun 2011, 336 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Jennifer G Wilder

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


In that moment, the racetrack vanished before her eyes. The orderly place it had been once, with horses passing here and there, and people walking purposefully or filling buckets or rolling bandages or raking walkways, gave way to high fences with guards outside them (armed), and milling groups of people inside them, not orderly or purposeful, but a melee—too many people, no horses, everything and everyone in a state of restlessness.

They were allowed through the entrance and directed to park to the left, in what was apparently a small visitors’ section. This, too, was fenced off. Pete came around and opened her door. She said, I’m so glad you brought me here.

They asked for you.

Have you been coming here?

I found them last week. This is my third visit. Since I’m not a family member, it might have to be my last. I know one guy—one guy only—and he’s not in the army, and the army runs things here.

He took her elbow. In his other hand, he carried a bag, but she couldn’t tell what was in it.

The stalls had become makeshift rooms. All the doors were open, because the stalls had no other windows—if a door were closed, there would be no air, except, perhaps, through the cracks in the plank walls. She couldn’t help staring as she went by (smiling, of course, in case anyone looked at her). The walls in the stalls had been whitewashed, but badly—nothing had been done underneath the whitewash to repair cracks or dents where the walls had been kicked—no doubt the stalls hadn’t even been scrubbed down. But every stall was full—hanging clothes, suitcases, boxes, people, chairs, beds, little tables. They walked down one aisle, came to a cross-aisle, turned left, walked three more aisles, turned right at “Barn H.” People looked at them as they passed, voices dropping, or falling silent altogether. Two children, little boys, shouted Hi! Hello! Howdy! in unison, and then went into a fit of giggles. She smiled at them, sorry she had nothing for them. Left again. Pete paused, looked around. Now they were at the far end of Barn G. He said, I thought they were here, and stepped back and looked up. Then he stepped forward and peeked over the half-door. Behind him, she peeked, too. There, on the back wall, was a painting of Mr. Kimura’s that she recognized, a pair of finches, one perched on a railing and the other below, perched on the rim of a small bucket, drinking from it. The stall was neat, or as neat as it could be, but, like the others, it was full of things. The Kimuras had never lived grandly, and over the years the neighborhood in Vallejo where they had their shop had sometimes been quite wild, but the sight of the painting hanging here suddenly struck her in a way that the whole scene had not yet. She gave a little gasp and said, This is unbearable!

At least they have a whole one to themselves. Some families are crammed in two to a stall.

You lived in a stall.

As a lark. Or if I wanted to sleep later than four in the morning.

She felt the rebuke.

But neither Naoko Kimura nor her mother, Kiku, appeared. The people in the two neighboring stalls smiled but didn’t speak. Pete
opened the stall door and set the bag inside.

I don’t like this.

Why not?

Because, when I was here two days ago, Kiku was quite ill. If she’s up and walking around by now, I would be amazed.

Leaving her to assimilate this alarming news, he walked up the row three stalls and fell into conversation with a man who was standing there. He came back in a hurry.

We have to go to the infirmary, which is next to Barn V. That’s across the compound. He says she went over there yesterday morning. They carried her on a stretcher.

Excerpted from Private Life by Jane Smiley. Copyright © 2010 by Jane Smiley. Excerpted by permission of Knopf. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Harmony
    Harmony
    by Carolyn Parkhurst
    In previous novels such as The Dogs of Babel and Lost and Found, Carolyn Parkhurst has shown herself...
  • Book Jacket: Commonwealth
    Commonwealth
    by Ann Patchett
    Opening Ann Patchett's novel Commonwealth about two semi-functional mid-late 20th Century ...
  • Book Jacket: A Gentleman in Moscow
    A Gentleman in Moscow
    by Amor Towles
    It is June 21, 1922, and 33-year-old Count Alexander Ilyich Rostov is convicted of being a class ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    The Tea Planter's Wife
    by Dinah Jefferies

    An utterly engrossing, compulsive page-turner set in 1920s Ceylon.

    Read Member Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Darling Days
    by iO Tillett Wright

    A devastatingly powerful memoir of one young woman's extraordinary coming of age.

    Read Member Reviews

Book Discussions
Book Jacket
Circling the Sun
by Paula McLain

An intoxicatingly vivid portrait of colonial Kenya and its privileged inhabitants.

About the book
Join the discussion!
Win this book!
Win Blood at the Root

Blood at the Root

"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

D C Y C Before T A H

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.