1991 - A Thousand Acres
I love serendipitous moments in novels. When tiny details that couldn't possibly have been foreseen relate back to another book or my own life in some way, I feel like I've stumbled upon some of the invisible threads that tie together everything in the universe. The book I chose for 1991, A Thousand Acres, was full of serendipitous tidbits that I gleefully devoured. The best part of these little discoveries is that they are so inconsequential to the story that they feel all that much more specific to me. October 19, the birthday of one of my lifelong friends, is the date of a hearing that occurs in the story. The city where I currently live (a small city of 100,000) is the hometown of the main character's mother. Most touchingly, it turns out A Thousand Acres is very loosely based on Shakespear's King Lear, the play that my husband and I recently attended as part of our fifth-anniversary celebrations.
These coincidences are not the same ones you would have discovered in this book. Nor are they all of the same particular moments that would have stood out to me if I had read this book months or years ago.
And speaking of reading on time, you will have noticed I was tardy posting this review. I will admit that I needed some time to wallow after the election. Reading is often a great way to escape reality for a while, but it just wasn't what I needed the last few weeks. I've amended the schedule for the next two books so I can catch up.
A Thousand Acres is the story of a family facing the devolution of the patriarch, the division of the homestead, the return of a pariah, and the secrets that inevitably come to the surface in churned relationships, much as rocks rise to the surface of freshly plowed land. It's stark, yet abundantly emotive. The characters may not get what they want, but they get what they deserve and the closure provided by that recompense is satisfying and devastating and incredibly, strangely, beautiful.
The three books listed below share the evocative nature of A Thousand Acres. And, to infuse a bit of my own serendipity (although I suppose that, by definition, makes it no longer serendipitous) are also all modern retellings of works by Shakespeare. The Gap of Time turns The Winter's Tale into an exploration of time and space in modern London and New Bohemia, America. Though I personally didn't like the contrived voice in The Weird Sisters, which references many Shakespeare works rather than being a retelling, I am nothing if not a firm believer that there is a reader for every book. And finally, A Wounded Name, set in an American boarding school, is the story of Hamlet from the perspective of a young Ophelia who can see ghosts.
- The Gap of Time by Jeanette Winterson
- The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown
- A Wounded Name by Dot Hutchison
Keep turning the page,