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The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson Review

Title: The Year We Left Home

Author: Jean Thompson

First published May 1, 2011

325 pages, Hardcover

ISBN: 9781439175880 (ISBN10: 1439175888)

Rating: 3.39


The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson is an epic family saga that spans across several decades of American history. This captivating novel tells the story of the Erickson family, a typical American family from Grenada, Iowa.

The book starts with the wedding of their eldest daughter Anita in 1973, which brings to the surface the family’s underlying tensions. The novel then follows the lives of the Erickson siblings, Ryan, Chip, and Torrie, as they navigate the turbulent times of the late twentieth century, including the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the farm crisis, and economic booms and busts.

The book is a poignant and powerful exploration of the American national character, our constant search for happiness, and the enduring bonds of family. With her signature style and impressive storytelling skills, Jean Thompson delivers a masterpiece that will captivate readers from the very first page.

About the Author

Meet Jean Thompson, a bestselling author whose new novel, The Humanity Project, will be published by Blue Rider Press on April 23, 2013. Her impressive resume includes other notable works such as The Year We Left Home (a novel), Do Not Deny Me and Throw Like a Girl (acclaimed short fiction collections), City Boy (another novel), and a National Book Award finalist for fiction in 1999.

Jean’s talent doesn’t end there. Her short fiction has been featured in several magazines and journals, including The New Yorker, and has been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize.

Elle Magazine has praised her writing as “bracing and wildly intelligent” for her exploration of love in all its dimensions.

Jean has also authored The Gasoline Wars and Little Face (short story collections), as well as My Wisdom and The Woman Driver (novels). Her noteworthy achievements include receiving Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts fellowships and teaching creative writing at various colleges and universities, such as the University of Illinois–Champaign/Urbana, Reed College, and Northwestern University.

Editoral Review

The Year We Left Home by Jean Thompson is a poignant exploration of family dynamics and generational changes in America. Published in 2011, the book delves into the lives of the Erickson family and their friends throughout the years, as they navigate the social, political, and economic shifts that define the late 20th century.

Jean Thompson is a prolific author known for her insightful portrayals of contemporary life. With The Year We Left Home, she delivers a masterful tale of growth and evolution, weaving together multiple perspectives and time periods to create a rich tapestry of human experience.

The plot follows the Ericksons, a middle-class family from Iowa, as they face various challenges and betrayals that threaten to tear them apart. From the eldest sibling Ryan’s dissatisfaction with corporate life to his sister Anita’s struggles with addiction, the family members are each grappling with their own demons, while simultaneously trying to maintain a semblance of normalcy.

As the narrative unfolds, the reader gets to know the cast of characters intimately, including Ryan’s wife, Karen, who is searching for fulfillment beyond motherhood, and their cousin Chip, who is grappling with his sexuality in a conservative environment. Over time, the characters grow and change, reflecting the shifting cultural landscape and the universal struggles of adulthood.

Thompson’s writing is lyrical and evocative, capturing the nuances of everyday life with precision and grace. She has a talent for creating fully-realized characters that feel authentic and relatable, and she imbues even minor characters with depth and complexity.

The book tackles themes of identity, family, class, and the American Dream, with a subtle but incisive critique of the country’s political and cultural norms. It is a beautifully crafted exploration of what it means to be human in a world that is constantly changing.

Overall, The Year We Left Home is a must-read for anyone interested in contemporary literature and the complexities of the human experience. It is a powerful work that speaks to the challenges and triumphs of modern life, and Jean Thompson’s writing is a true testament to her skill and talent.

Rating: 4.5/5. While the book is not without its minor flaws, such as occasional uneven pacing and predictability, it is an impressive and absorbing novel that delivers on its promises.

Highly recommended.

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