Tag Archives: Early Warning



Early Warning
Author: Jane Smiley
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, 2015
Genre: Novel
Hardcover Edition: 476 pages
Source: Library copy

Early Warning continues the story of an Iowa family, the Langdons. In this volume the many offspring of Walter and Rosanna Langdon migrate across the country, mostly to American cities. There is never a dull moment as the story moves from the toll of CIA intrigue to rebellious teenagers. Who knew the years 1953 to 1986 could be so fascinating?

The characters are finely drawn, riveting in the changes they experience. This is realistic fiction with an exclamation point. The sharp details are grounded in reality and utterly telling. Who is most interesting? Who surprises the reader most? It’s almost like a parlor game, and yet I cared about each character by the novel’s close. And oh, I hated to leave them when I had read the last page. Much changes and shifts for these characters, as it does in our own lives.

Raising children interests many readers and it interests author Jane Smiley and the Langdons to a remarkable degree. The details of child-raising hold center stage. I venture to say this author writes children better than any other and she does it in context, as opposed to a 10 or 12 year old voice knowing and dominating all as in much recent fiction. The structure of this novel focuses us on this character and then, that one, as they raise families in different places. Similar to the first book, each chapter takes the reader to the next year and within each chapter are scenes, so detailed and clear you feel a part of the far-flung family in different places and experiencing different events.

With this trilogy we see a big picture of the small parts individuals play in life’s drama. Oh, I can’t wait for the next book. This trilogy is a not-to-be-missed family saga.



Born With Teeth by Kate Mulgrew, memoir


Kate Mulgrew grew up in an Irish Catholic family in Dubuque, Iowa. At age nineteen she won a role on the TV soap, Ryan’s Hope. Soon after that she gave up a baby for adoption and recently they have been reunited. After an important role on Star Trek she is doing some of her best work as an actress in the series Orange Is The New Black. Kate’s firm jawline provides a hint of the determination with which she has lived her life. According to one reviewer her book emphasizes friendship and family rather than career interests.

Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson, history


Already this book is on bestseller lists. I bought it at the Bookloft in Fernandina Beach and have started to read it. Written like a thriller, it is indeed a page turner. I disagree with reviewers who have said it is old news. Seems to me there is much new information about that time in our history. One example is the extent of German cruelty during the World War I era. I’ll give a final verdict when I have finished the book.

Early Warning by Jane Smiley, fiction


The second volume in Smiley’s trilogy about the Langdon family, warm, interesting and rooted in America’s heartland, is released this week. If you haven’t read Some Luck, the first book in the series, run, don’t walk to your nearest bookseller or library. It is a phenomenal read. I recommend this author as certainly one of the finest novelist of our generation.

Made in Detroit by Marge Piercy, poetry


This author is a favorite of mine whether writing fiction or poety. This is her first volume of poetry to be published in some time. She grew up in Detroit. At least some of these poems are autobiographical. I look forward to reading this book, and to a visit in a couple of weeks to the Detroit Library, a place Piercy has called her “saving grace”.

God Help the Child: a Novel by Toni Morrison


Since my earliest days as an educator, I have been puzzled by why some children meet life’s difficult challenges with an almost unbelievable resiliency, enabling them to grow and prosper, while others are increasingly vulnerable in difficult circumstances and never become the persons they might have been. Apparently this novel deals with the scars of childhood, and the fears adults entertain about doing the best for their children. How do sufferings in childhood effect adult life? This woman is a fierce writer of giant talent. She always has something important to say as one puzzles through her stories.