The Ericksons, who form the center of Jean Thompson’s terrific new novel, may not be exactly like your family, but many things about their lives are strikingly familiar. The irksome duties. The simmering discontent. The odd moments of grace. Moving up. Moving on. Comedy. Tragedy. You know, all the things that make up a life, yours, mine, everybody’s.
The Year We Left Home is about leaving the place where all this commotion begins, but Thompson also skillfully examines the elements that drag us back to our pasts, no matter how much time has passed or how far we’ve traveled. Unsentimental, enlightening and quietly brilliant, the novel examines three decades in the lives of the Ericksons of Grenada, Iowa, no dirt under their fingernails but still tied to the tough, earlier generations that farmed the land (which makes them vulnerable to the looming economic disaster due to strike farm country in the 1980s.) They are quintessential middle America — blond, stoic, thrifty — and Thompson deftly captures their various discomforts during times of incessant change as the 20th century winds to a close.
Two wars bracket the story set over 30 years, one in Vietnam and the other in Iraq, neither taking center stage but instead indirectly affecting the characters. Each chapter is so finely drawn it could stand as a story, though The Year We Left Home is best absorbed as a whole to appreciate its incisive exploration of how we become who we are and why we come home.
Click here to read the whole review. And READ THIS BOOK!