Click Here To Purchase The Year We Left Home: A Novel

Author: Jean Thompson

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

ISBN: 9781439175880

This novel that follows the lives of various members of a middle class Iowa family is in reality a collection of sequentially ordered chapters each of which has the impact of a well written, insightful and darkly humorous short story. It is an interesting structure for a novel and probably the best way to handle the broad sweep of characters and decades encompassed herein.

The characters include a future Queen of Real Estate (you had to see it coming), Anita, her husband Jeff, a financially successful banker/alcoholic, her younger sister Torrie, who conquers the brain damage caused by an auto accident to become a promising artist, her brother Ryan a young man who flirts with the offbeat before he feels suffocated by the conventionaI, another brother, Blake a construction contractor sensitive about not going to college, and a reprobate cousin Ray, aka Chip, a Viet Nam Vet with a strong sense of survival humor. The first chapter/story takes place at Anita’s wedding to Jeff in January 1973 and the last one takes place in June of 2003 with a homecoming.

The prose between the funny pitch perfect dialogues and interior monologues sometimes swings to music, sometimes slows into poetry:

Then an amazing thing: his Uncle Norm came out of the kitchen with a can of Dance Wax, sprinkling it over the scuffed floor. Little powdery flakes, like snow falling inside. Then Aunt Martha joined him, and the two of them clasped hands, Norm’s arm around her waist. They stepped together, stepped and twirled and glided, up and down and round and round, some fast step they must have learned back when they were kids and had been practicing ever since in some unsuspected life that included fun, moving in perfect time with each other and the jazzy music.” (p. 19)

or: “It was a nice moment and he felt a kind of useless melancholy at the idea that the three of them would never again here in just such a moment and that no moment of life was like any other and as soon as you became aware of them, there were as good as gone. . . ” (p. 267) and then ended that story :

They listened to the rest of Matt’s music for another moment, and a moment and a moment more.” (p. 268)

You can read the book from start to finish like a novel or you can treat it like a collection of short stories and be as much moved by the voices that will always be familiar. That cousin Chip, he reminds me of someone I once knew rather well, can’t recall the name, give me a minute and it will come to me.

This author comes highly praised, recognized and awarded and deserves it all.

Click Here To Purchase The Year We Left Home: A Novel