Friday, March 27, 2015

2015 book 75

Jane Smiley's Early Warning
 The second book in Smiley's Langdon family trilogy (after the excellent Some Luck), tracing the family from the 50s to the 80s, is kind of a slow starter--there are a lot more people to keep track of in this one, and it took me a bit to remember all the interrelationships. Eventually I got into the groove and was happy to sink back into this now-extended family's lives. Obviously some characters are more compelling than others, and some of the plotlines strain incredulity a bit--it makes sense that at least one of the boys would end up in Vietnam, but how likely is it that another grandchild would get involved with Jim Jones and the People's Temple? (Not that it's not fascinating to read about.) The Cold War elements as well as the treatment of mental illness are both really well done, and I liked how Smiley slyly snuck in a random child--at first I was like "who's THIS kid" and when I figured it out after his second appearance I honestly GASPED. I also liked seeing the gradual shift from what someone of my generation (The X/Millennium cusp) considers "olden times" to what I recognize as modernity. And of course there's more of what made the first great--complicated families, motherhood (of many sorts), secrets, love, siblings, and so on. Smiley really makes these people feel real. I ended this one crying, but they were happy tears. A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in April.

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