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Viktor E. Frankl, Harold S. Kushner
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A Thousand Acres (Ballantine Reader's Circle)

A Thousand Acres - Jane Smiley When I first picked up this book it assumed it was going to be just another epic: love, tragedy all pretty trite and predictable.
But the quality of the writing, both narrative and descriptive, and the logical development of the plot raise it above the usual fodder and make it both an fascinating and fulfilling read.

It starts off a rather slow paced, but never tedious, story about American farmers. The descriptions of the landscape are beautiful but not excessive and the characters are strong, well-drawn personalities without falling back on stereotypes.

The patriarch is a chauvinist ego-maniac who I disliked from the start, one sister is a little too fond of blind-siding everyone with her 'frank' observations and the narrator's husband is so passive he hardly seemed conscious, just enough to irritate me but little else.
And the protagonist: she lacks backbone.

Despite this motley cast of characters the narrative unfolds so naturally that you are drawn into their world and when, in the middle of the book, the family drama explodes my heart was racing with emotion as I eagerly turned the pages.

I was pleasantly surprised that the author felt no need to be either too kind or too cruel to her characters and although there is pain and tragedy the main character, at least, does seem to find some peace.