This novel is the first of a trilogy about the Langdons, an Iowa farm family. It covers a turbulent 33 years, during which occur the Great Depression, the long drought, and the Second World War.
Most of the novel concentrates on the Langdon children. Frankie is active and always into trouble. He teases his younger brother Joey unmercifully. Joey is gentle and good with animals, dutiful and obedient. Lilian is angelic looking and well behaved, good at taking care of the younger children but a bit prissy. Henry is self-contained and spends as much time reading as possible.
It is hard to describe this novel. It moves constantly from character to character in viewpoint and has no main character, but is more like an ensemble piece. The action that takes place is mostly that of everyday living, although there are births, deaths, and weddings. Rosanna goes through a religious phase after one child’s death and drags the family to a fundamentalist church for several years and then stops.
Smiley’s characters are very human, with faults and foibles. So far, this trilogy is developing slowly, but the family’s lives make interesting reading.